When we're talking about how good a piece of fitness tech is, it's easy to focus only on the hardware. But if you're serious about using a wearable to reach a health or fitness goal, then you also need to know whether the partnering app passes muster. In the Withings universe, that comes in the shape of Withings Health Mate, our Health and Fitness Platform of the Year.
Health Mate is Withings' answer to the likes of Garmin Connect, Polar Flow or Jawbone UP's companion app. Available for iOS, Android and as a web app, it's essentially a lifestyle tracking platform that aggregates all the data from the growing number of smart products in the Withings range, some third party devices like the Apple Watch and a host of smartphone apps.
Withings (now owned by Nokia) arguably offers the most comprehensive range of lifestyle monitoring products you can buy – albeit with a stronger focus on general everyday health rather than sports and performance. You can take data from any combination of its products – from the Activité smartwatches or the Aura sleep system, to the Withings Body Cardio and the Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor – plug these into Health Mate and start to paint a picture of your overall wellbeing.
Layer on information gathered from a selection of other leading wearables and apps and what you get is one of the most holistic health management tools out there. This guide will tell you everything you need to know to get the most out of it.
Withings Health Mate app
A bit like Jawbone UP, the app is helpfully colour coded with a neat and intuitive design that makes it simple to use. It's split into five main sections: Timeline, Dashboard, Leaderboard, Profile and Reminders.
This is the place to go to see what you've been up to across all your tracked areas, detailed by day in chronological order. It's the quickest way to see how you're tracking against your targets for the day, as well as see how you've performed on previous days. If you've been for a run, it'll log that as a segment here as well as show you your step count, any weight measurements taken, and any other stats that have been fired into the app from your connected devices and apps.
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Your dashboard is where you get to see the bigger picture and monitor trends over time. If your timeline is all about what's happening now, or what's happened recently, then the dashboard is where you go to access charts that plot your progress over weeks, months or years. This is where you learn most about your specific health trends, and the more data you gather, over a longer period of time, the more revealing the insights become.
The leaderboard adds a social dimension to your health tracking. You can add fellow Health Mate app users to a leaderboard and bring a bit of friendly rivalry to striving for a healthier you. The main competition here is all about who's the most active and it's surprising how motivating the prospect of beating a friend or family member can be.
From your profile page you can easily set your goals for weight, steps, sleep and exercises such as running. You can also see which third-party apps you're connected with, along with the compatible apps you've got loaded on your phone that you may wish to sync with. Finally there's a full list of all the badges you've earned by hitting milestones like clocking up enough distance to cross Sicily, walk the Danube or hit 40,000 steps in a day.
In this section you can activate a handily pre-prepared set of reminders, all geared towards helping you hit your goals and improve your health. These are neatly categorised into Weight, Activity, Sleep and Heart, and you can choose to set alarms for things like a reminder to weigh yourself, drink a glass of water, go for an after-dinner walk, or drink a herbal tea to help you sleep.
This lets you manage which Withings accessories you connect with your Health Mate app, and it's also a really useful way to see how much battery life is left on your connected tech.
Seven ways to get more from Health Mate
1. Use charts to see the bigger picture
Seeing your stats over a longer period of time reveals some very surprising insights. A good example of this is that most people think losing weight is all about constant downward progress – that you should see a nice smooth line on your graph, constantly heading south. Weigh yourself at the same time each morning for two months and you'll see that's not what happens. What you see by looking at the bigger picture is that there are little rises and falls all the time, even while your overall trajectory can still be heading in the right direction: downwards. Once you realise this, that panic you used to get when the scales said you were 1kg heavier than the day before goes away.
You can log your weight manually so you don't have to own a set of Withings smart scales for this to be useful, but it really comes to life when you link it up with something like the Smart Body Analyzer or the Body Cardio. These provide a whole host of extra measurements like body fat percentage, overall fat mass, lean mass and heart rate.
From here, you can also set a weight goal and track your performance towards it. Or hook up third-party food logging apps like MyFitnessPal to help you track what calories you consume and compare that to how many calories the activity tracker suggests you've burned.
3. Turn over some new leaves
From your dashboard you can access your 'wellness leaf'. "What's a wellness leaf?" you ask. Well, Health Mate breaks down your overall health into four areas: Weight, Activity, Sleep and Heart. Each section is represented at the top of your dashboard by what looks like a helpfully colour-coded four-leaf clover. You can tap on the clover to customise stats, set new targets and sync new apps. Here are some ways you can tailor your information so that you're working towards a bespoke plan rather than generic goals.
Activity – Activity tracking can done by the sensors already in your phone, by one of the tracking devices Withings offers or by hooking up a third-party app that syncs data into Health Mate.
You can also connect to more sport and performance focussed apps like Runkeeper, MapMyFitness, Endomondo, Nike+ and Runtastic if you want to keep tabs on more serious exercise.
Sleep – Sleep is one area where you're pretty much forced to own a Withings sleep tracking device, like the Aura or Pulse, to collect stats. Connecting to one of these lets you monitor your sleep duration and quality and, when put in the context of all your other information, can help you start to decipher what factors affect how many quality zeds you get.
Heart – This is where you see how your heart health is and where you can also track changes in blood pressure over time. Heart rate stats can be fired in from a range of sources like the Apple Watch, the Withings Body Analyzer or a host of third-party apps and devices.
4. Set out to earn a badge of honour
Earning a badge for hitting a goal is a simple concept we're all familiar with. Most health and fitness apps offer this virtual motivation in some way or other and Withings is no different. You automatically clock up badges when you hit certain milestones, but you can really make this surprisingly powerful by setting yourself the challenge of bagging certain badges before you start your fitness journey. Choose the ones that matter most to you, set yourself a timeline and you'll be shocked at how obsessed you can become about grabbing those little graphics.
5. Sync more apps, catch more stats
At the time of writing there were over 100 third-party apps compatible with the Health Mate ecosystem. (You can see a full list here.)
You can pair up plenty of well-known big hitters like Fitbit, Endomondo, Nike+, MyFitnessPal and Nest so that they fire data into Health Mate, helping you to develop better insights and change your environment to foster a healthier lifestyle. But there are also a whole range of other third-party apps across fitness tracking, weight management, nutrition coaching, food logging and home automation that can really bring Health Mate to life. The great news here is that it means you don't necessarily have to rely on owning Withings wearables or devices to get the most out of Health Mate.
6. Use the web app to go deep on big data
The recently updated Health Mate web app offers even more depth and analysis than the smartphone apps. You'll find the same colour-coded widgets that you can drag-and-drop re-order to put your priority information first. But the real benefit to firing up a browser instead of your smartphone is how the data is presented. Not only do you get a range of extra filters for your charts, like elevation, active calories and distance, but once you've logged a couple of months worth of stats, your trends are much easier to decipher on a bigger screen.
7. Share data with your doctor
You can send heart rate and blood pressure charts stats, via email, direct to your doctor. Because you have to manually email the information from within the app to your GP, you remain in control of when and what you share and you can choose from different time periods including a week and the last three months. You can also set handy reminders to nudge you to email your info to your doc at regular intervals if that's what you need.
Got any great tips or questions about Withings Health Mate? Let us know in the comments below
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