Research-based apps for health, productivity and stress-management

Originally published on: Autonomous

There are tons of great apps out there for wellness and productivity. It can be a little daunting to sort through the options and know which might work for you without downloading all the variations on one kind of app and trying them out.

One big perk of the proliferation of mobile apps is that everyone from scientists to media organizations have been forced to innovate in order to reach people. When it comes to science, researchers have realized that apps offer access to huge sample pools for testing research ideas if they design an experience that rewards participants with useful information about themselves. (See an example here with lab-designed productivity app TimeAware).

Here are 5 of the best (free) apps created in labs or based on the best research on health, productivity and mental wellness.

Add your favorite science-backed apps below! Please ❤ and share if we help you #workhealthier.


Voted the best fitness app by both users and a panel of sports scientists, Sworkit is easy to use, customizable and closley aligned with the American College of Sports Medicine’s training guidelines. While nothing can replace a personal trainer, a lot of the basic and important elements a trainer would provide are covered in the app, including the correct variation beteween aerobic, strength wnd flexibility training as well as frequency, insensity and proper form for safety purposes.


Created by PYST Psychological Technologies, Moo-q is seems like a pretty straightforward way to see when your brain works best throughout the day, but it actually provides s lot more information than just that. Moo-q reminds you throughout the day to take quick math and memorization tests that show at what time, on which days of the week, you’re most alert. The longer and more often that you use the app, the more you start to see patterns. Before you start the test it asks you a few simple questions about your mood as well, after a few weeks you can start to see correlations between stress and/or positive feelings, energy levels and how that affects your productivity.


This app bills itself as a “digital CBT program proven to help you sleep better without pills or potions”. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to be highly effective in treating several disorders previously thought only to be responsive to medication. Insomnia effects about 40 percent of women and 30 percent of men in the United States. It goes without saying that sleep is foundational to productivity and mental/physical health. Even if you don’t think you have insomnia, it’s likely that your not sleeping as well as you could be, which makes this app worth a try for everyone.

Noom Coach

The science of healthy weight loss is a rapidly evolving field. We get a lot of mixed messages about what’s effective, what’s healthy and whether or not most people should even try to lose weight or not. According to Noom’s website, they’ve helped 45 million people lose an average of 18 pounds over the course of 16 weeks (considered a healthy rate) and keep up a sustainable rate of weight-loss for four years. They have two PhD scientists advising their team.


Also based on CBT and positive psychology, KoKo was developed from research done in a clinical trial at MIT. It’s a simple app that fills a niche other social media networks have failed to cover: an anonymous safe place to share a worry and get help rethinking it. It comes with minimal guidelines but is based in the idea that the human brain tends to jump to worst-case scenario first, which can cause even bigger problems than the issue at hand. As WIRED put it:

It’s what you’d get if you were to combine the swiping gesture of Tinder, the anonymity of Whisper, the upvoting of Reddit, and the earnestness of old-fashioned forums.

Add your favorite science-backed apps below! Please ❤ and share if we help you #workhealthier.