Demystifying Medicine One Month at a Time

Quantified Selves

Are you a data junkie?

Do you feel compelled to record your vitals, throughout the day, during workouts, or while you sleep?

the-quantified-selfHave you ever tried a calorie counting app to see what you really eat in a day?

If you own a smart phone, you are now able to do all of these things as never before.

A growing movement known as Quantified Self is putting people more in charge of their data and their health. NPR ran a great story on QS (embedded below). Some of the more popular apps were featured and some devoted QS’ers were interviewed.

As a doctor, I welcome people’s engagement with their health. As the illustration shows, anything that gives people a sense of control over their lives (and their ‘well being’) can’t be bad.

Yet I do want people to keep these tools in perspective–you may find, like I do, that some of the subjects of the story are a bit, er, obsessive. And if you look at the comments, you’ll see there are many skeptics, who express doubts that these modern tools will help Americans change their unhealthy habits–arguing that those motivated enough to quantify themselves are likely to be healthy types in the first place.

Know any good tracking apps? Share them with us.


  1. Franny Dalton, MD

    I live Cyclemeter app. It tracks mileage, elevation, time, fast/slow speeds, maps, calories burned and graphs your rides, runs, walks, and other sports. It’s just fun to see the stats and compete with yourself.

    I used to use Sleep Cycle app which tracks your time and stages of sleep and wakes you when you’re in lighter stages of sleep. But you have to put the phone on your mattress and that got kind of inconvenient! Not sure how accurate it was.

  2. Philip Lederer

    John- Great post. I’m a believer in quantified self for weight loss, but we still need randomized controlled trials to prove it

  3. Doug Stewart

    Microsoft Outlook helps plan my future but also documents my present and past. Simplifies the task of recording my work-related activities for purposes of accountability and quantification. Cyclemeter also serves my purposes for energy expenditures and fun feedback. Finally, I enjoyed using the application Lose It! for a 3 or 4 month interval several years ago in a personal experiment in quantified self. I lost 10 pounds during that time period. The experience reset my eating and exercise habits. Another benefit of quantified self include meticulous tax filing documentation and accountability. Downside? Borders on obsession and compulsion.

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