When it comes to health gadgets, finding a worthwhile one can be tricky. Like supplements, health gadgets aren’t FDA-approved or regulated — so it’s hard to know which are actually helpful. Not to mention whether a product's health claims can be trusted.
Still, there are some good health gadgets out there.
Below are some of the ones our experts recommend, a few of which I've come to rely on and would consider worth the hype (and hefty price tag, in some cases).
Whether you're shopping for yourself, the holidays, someone's birthday or just happen to stumble on a good sale, look out for these healthy gadgets. They may be just what you or your loved ones need to get healthy and stay healthy.
1. Fitness tracker
My first fitness tracker was pretty basic. It just counted my steps. But even something that simple had the power to get me moving. It put my activity level, or lack thereof, front and center. It also tapped into my competitive side. Some evenings I’d even pace around my apartment so I could hit my challenge of 10,000 steps a day.
Nowadays, my smartwatch doubles as my fitness tracker and gives me in-depth insights about my health. It measures my physical activity and exercise, calories burned, heart rate while resting or exercising, how often I get up and move, sleep quality and more.
"We've never had this much insight about our bodies on our wrists and on our phones, and I think there is a lot of benefit to knowing instantaneously," says JJ Rodriguez, clinical exercise physiologist at Houston Methodist. "There are some good publications coming out now showing how effective they are in long-term improvement in health."
Staying healthy means staying active, and sometimes I need an extra oomph to get up and move. I can’t tell you how often I look down at my fitness tracker and realize I’m nowhere close to hitting my activity goal. It inspires me to stand up and get moving — and I always feel better afterwards.
2. Air fryer
Admittedly, cooking appliances aren’t technically considered “health gadgets” — but the ones that help us eat healthier probably should be.
My favorite kitchen gadget that helps me cook healthier? Our air fryer. I'm not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that I use it every single night. In fact, it's the only kitchen appliance that stays out on my countertop (aside from my coffee maker).
Whether cooking veggies or protein, an air fryer accomplishes the best parts of frying — crispy outside with a tender and moist inside — without having to submerge your food in oil. In fact, I never need more than a tablespoon of oil while using my air fryer.
"The air fryer can be a great tool to get more of those nutritious foods into your diet in a way that's going to taste really good," says Amanda Beaver, wellness dietitian at Houston Methodist.
I use my air fryer to make dishes like panko-crusted chicken tenders and fresh-cut steak fries, but it's also excellent for just simply roasting vegetables, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots and zucchini.
Air fryers don't automatically make all food healthier by the way.
"I think it really comes down to what you're putting in the air fryer," says Beaver. "Frozen French fries, frozen chicken nuggets, frozen popcorn shrimp — those have been par fried, or pre-fried, before they're packaged and go on the shelves the grocery store. So, even though we're cooking them in the air fryer and not in a deep fat fryer, they are still pre-fried."
She adds that, while this might be a little healthier than getting French fries or chicken nuggets from a fast food restaurant, they're not something we should be tossing into our air fryers every day.
3. Massage gun
Whether it's after a tough workout or hunching over my laptop all week, I'm no stranger to neck pain, shoulder pain, leg pain — you get the idea. I've tried a lot of remedies: using a heating pad, foam rolling, committing to a stretching routine.
These all help, but a newer way I've been relieving muscle tightness and preventing muscle soreness is using a massage gun. These are handheld devices that use vibration and deep oscillation to massage irritated muscles.
"From a physical therapy perspective, I certainly think a massage gun is a useful recovery tool," says Dr. Corbin Hedt, physical therapist specializing in orthopedics and sports medicine at Houston Methodist. "One study actually shows that percussive massagers can provide the same benefit as a 15-minute massage in as little as two minutes of using it."
(Related: 5 Questions About Massage Guns, Answered)
4. Body composition scale
Body composition scales have been used in clinics for years to assess whether patients are carrying excess body fat.
"Body composition scales are helpful because, in addition to total weight, they measure how much of that weight is body fat, fat free mass and water," explains Melynda Dennis, a physician assistant specializing in weight management at Houston Methodist. "This is important because what we're most concerned about with weight is excess body fat, since this is what increases a person's risk of developing weight-related health issues."
Now, you can buy one one of the scales for your home. I did, and I've been using mine to track more than just my overall weight.
"When losing weight, you don't want to just generally lose pounds," says Dennis. "You want to lose body fat, specifically, while still maintaining — or even building — lean muscle mass. Simply looking at your total weight doesn't provide that level of detail in terms of healthy progress."
While at-home body composition scales aren't as accurate as the ones you find in a weight loss clinic, Dennis says the benefit of having one of these scales at home is that they allow you to track larger trends over time, when used frequently and consistently. They can also help uncover a significant shift in your body fat. If you notice a change, she recommends discussing it with your medical provider.
5. Hydration-tracking water bottle
I was a horrible water drinker growing up. Some days I probably only drank a glass or two. (Coincidentally, I got headaches — a lot.)
It took me understanding how much water I really need, and the consequences of not getting enough of it, for me to realize that I had to do better. But aside from just not really liking water, I realized my biggest struggle was remembering to drink it.
So, I bought a hydration-tracking water bottle and made a point to carry it around with me all day long, which ended up helping me form some long-lasting healthy hydration habits. With a twistable ticker on the lid, my bottle was a constant reminder of my hydration progress.
Hydration-tracking water bottles have come a long way since I first used one, and now some even connect to your smart phone and send you alerts when you’re behind drinking your quota.
Several years later, I don't need the reminders anymore and drink plenty of water throughout the day on my own. And, yet another coincidence, I get way fewer headaches...
6. Electric toothbrush
I never really thought twice about my electric toothbrush — until I left it behind in a hotel room while on a road trip.
The case I’ll make for the electric toothbrush is that it makes your teeth feel so clean. So much so that I couldn’t even make it through the rest of my vacation using a regular toothbrush. It was only few days before I made us stop at a store so I could buy a replacement.
The real reason to use an electric toothbrush, however, is that they're backed by dentists. The Cochrane Review, the gold standard among dentists, gives electric toothbrushes a definite advantage over regular, manual toothbrushes — in part since electric toothbrushes take some of the guesswork out of tooth brushing.
7. Home blood pressure monitor
This isn't a health gadget I use personally, but I recently learned that our preventive cardiology expert, Dr. Kershaw Patel, recommends his high blood pressure patients measure their numbers regularly at home. This seemed like relevant, helpful advice to pass along.
Your cardiologist, of course, checks your blood pressure at each visit, but Dr. Patel points out that there can be a lot of stimulating activity (and sometimes even anxiety) before and during a doctor's appointment — dealing with traffic and navigating a parking garage, maybe taking an elevator, being moved from the waiting room to an exam room and even concern over what your doctor might have to say about your health.
"Blood pressures vary due to all of these different stimuluses," explains Dr. Patel. "So, typically, I recommend patients actually measure their blood pressure at home, where things are a little bit more stable, calm."
As for how to use a home blood pressure monitor effectively, Dr. Patel has three main tips:
- Get a validated blood pressure device. Make sure the device you're using is actually tested for accuracy, approved and validated. There's a simple website for this: validatebp.org.
- Be consistent. There can be differences in your blood pressure throughout the day, so it's important to check your numbers at the same time each day and under the same conditions. Dr. Patel recommends doing so first thing in the morning, after you've emptied your bladder and with your feet resting for at least five minutes.
- Keep a log. Whether it's a paper log or an electronic one on your phone or computer, be sure to record your blood pressure readings and bring your log with you to your appointments.
"And then consistently measure it the same way multiple times per week, every day or five days out of the week," adds Dr. Patel.
8. TytoCare telehealth exam kit
I was already a fan of telehealth before the pandemic, but now I've really come to appreciate having easy, convenient access to my doctors.
While I haven't used this gadget myself just yet, TytoCare is a device that records your health vitals and shares them with your telehealth provider — making virtual visits even more productive and convenient.
TytoCare is a small and portable device that, aided by a few attachments inside the kit, can:
- Take your temperature
- Examine your ears
- Assess your breathing
- Check for sore throat
- Take pictures of rashes, bug bites and other skin lesions
With this device, you can perform your own physical examination and share the information and data right then and there with your telehealth provider. And it's compatible with Houston Methodist Virtual Urgent Care.