Whether it’s to lose weight, sleep better or help you manage after an operation, there’s always a new gadget claiming to boost our health in some way.
We waste billions on such devices, with the average Briton spending £303 in a lifetime on items including smoothie makers and home-gym equipment, only for our purchases to languish at the back of a cupboard or in the corner of a spare room.
Meanwhile, one in six adults admits they’ve bought health and fitness products they never use, according to a survey by a gym chain in 2016.
So, what really is worth buying? Here, we ask the experts to reveal the gadgets that they rate highest – and the hidden gems they themselves use . . .
Clever: This electronic fork sees users consume 11 per cent fewer calories per meal
FOR APPETITE CONTROL
Slow Control 10s Fork, £35, slowcontrol.com
This electronic fork aims to slow down your eating: the manufacturer cites research showing that slower eaters consume 11 per cent fewer calories at a meal.
A sensor counts each movement of wrist to mouth and vibrates and flashes red if you leave less than ten seconds between bites.
The fork also links via Bluetooth to an app on your smartphone that will give you feedback and helps you to track meal duration and the number of bites taken over time.
EXPERT COMMENT: ‘There is enough evidence to support the idea that slower eating helps to reduce calorie intake,’ says Dr Ian Campbell, an obesity specialist and a Nottingham-based GP.
‘It creates mindful eating habits and gives the brain extra time to receive the “I’m full” message from the stomach – so the theory makes sense.
‘The device may well help you eat less, but people can get bored with such things.’
Practical: This 13 in-long brush allows people who have limited mobility to brush their hair
This 13 in-long brush allows people who have limited mobility – for instance, after recent surgery on the shoulder, back or chest – to brush their own hair.
EXPERT COMMENT: ‘We use these kind of brushes a great deal for patients post-surgery,’ says Helen Rushton, an occupational therapist based in Neston, Cheshire, and a member of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists.
‘Brushing our hair requires a complex set of upper body movements – muscles and tendons have to swivel through a wide range of movements.
‘This product lets patients brush their hair without raising or rotating their shoulders. It’s too big to fit in a handbag, but there is a folding version.’
FOR BLOOD PRESSURE
Tech savvy: This cuff sends blood pressure reading data to your smartphone via an app
This cuff sends your blood pressure reading data to your smartphone via an app. A sensor will also tell you if it’s in the wrong position, says the maker.
EXPERT COMMENT: This monitor has been validated by the British and Irish Hypertension Society – but, while any one-off results should be reliable, it’s a good idea to take regular readings at a similar time, ideally sitting down after a rest, to see any trend, says Graham MacGregor, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfson Institute, in London.
He adds: ‘Having your wrist in the wrong position often gives a misleading result, and this has sensor technology, which could be useful.’
FOR DRY EYES
Hot: According to the manufacturer, the mask will remain warm for as long as ten minutes
The MGDRx EyeBag, £20, eyebag company.com
MadE from silk and cotton, this reusable mask can be heated in a microwave for 30 seconds to provide soothing relief from sore, dry eyes, styes and conditions such as blepharitis (inflamed eyelids).
According to the manufacturer, the mask will remain warm for as long as ten minutes.
EXPERT COMMENT: ‘Warming the eyes can really help to moisturise them,’ says Robert Glass, an optometrist who has a chain of shops in Manchester.
‘The heat frees up substances that are stuck in the eyelid glands, which helps to stop tears from evaporating so quickly.
‘There are lots of heated eye masks for dry eyes, but I find this one really effective and it does provide relief.’
FOR A BAD BACK
Smart: This neoprene wrap radiates your own heat back in to your body to relieve aches
ThermoDr self-heating body wrap, £24.95, theheatpack company.com
This neoprene wrap is secured by Velcro and uses tourmaline gemstones and magnets, which radiate your own heat back in to your body to relieve aches.
EXPERT COMMENT: ‘Like many dentists, I suffer with a bad back from years of leaning over patients – and I find this really helps,’ says David Cohen, a specialist endodontist (specialist in root canal treatment) at ICE Postgraduate Dental Institute and Hospital in Manchester.
‘You put the wrap on tight and, in ten to 15 minutes, feel an intense heat on your lower back. The fact that it contains gemstones may sound a bit unusual, but it seems to work. It fits on well, too.’
FOR HOSPITAL STAYS
What a lather! Each fabric cap has a thick layer of shampoo that doesn’t need rinsing
Nilaqua Rinse Free Shampoo Cap, £2.71, boots.com
Each fabric cap has a thick, gel-like layer of shampoo that does not need to be rinsed. Instead, it can simply be rubbed away using a towel.
With your hair tucked inside the cap, you rub gently for a few minutes, until you feel the whole scalp has been saturated with the shampoo.
The cap is then taken off and hair rubbed dry with a towel. The cap can first be heated in a microwave for a warm wash, too.
EXPERT COMMENT: ‘These are really useful if you’re in hospital or bed-bound after surgery,’ says Helen Rushton, an occupational therapist.
‘But you still need to be able to reach and rub your hair, or have someone who can do it for you.’
FOR SORE NECKS
Cheap and cheerful: This plastic beaker is designed for people who find it difficult to tip back their head or extend their neck
Economy Nosey Cup, £2.46, completecare shop.co.uk
This plastic beaker is designed for people who find it difficult to tip back their head or extend their neck.
It simply has one side at the top cut out in order to avoid contact with the nose, so that a drink can enter the mouth without the need to lean your head back. The cup holds 237ml.
EXPERT COMMENT: ‘This cup is ideal for anyone who has arthritis in the neck, or patients who have just had neck surgery – for instance, to relieve compressed nerves,’ says occupational therapist Helen Rushton.
‘It’s a great idea. My only caution is that while the supplier claims it is microwave-safe, it has no handles, which may raise the risk of scalds, so don’t use it for hot drinks.’
FOR BETTER POSTURE
Sitting pretty: This chair consists of a balance ball on a stand with a back rest.
This chair consists of a balance ball on a stand with a back rest.
‘You’ll improve your posture and spinal alignment while getting a powerful core-strengthening workout,’ says the maker.
EXPERT COMMENT: ‘Balancing on a ball requires you to be upright, encouraging you to switch on the “sitting muscles” – such as abdominal muscles and those in the buttocks,’ says Sammy Margo, a physiotherapist in North London.
‘Using these helps strengthen them, protecting the lower back and improving the posture.
‘It would be too tiring to sit on a gym ball all day, which is why I like this chair, as you can sit against the back rest for support.’
FOR BLOCKED SINUSES
Breathe easy: A neti pot can be used to help clear the sinuses of congested phlegm
Yogi’s NoseBuddy – The Ultimate Neti Pot, £16.87, amazon.co.uk
A neti pot can be used to help clear the sinuses. They come in different versions – some made from stainless steel, others from ceramic or plastic.
But they essentially do the same thing: they work by tipping water through one nostril and allowing it to flow out of the other. This helps to clear nostrils of congested phlegm that has built up there.
To use a neti pot, fill it with water and tilt your head so one ear is leaning towards the floor – or, ideally, over a sink to catch any spills – then insert the pot’s spout into the nostril furthest from the sink and tip the pot to pour.
The water should flow out of the lower nostril. Switch sides and repeat.
EXPERT COMMENT: ‘If you’ve got a continuous runny nose or blocked sinus problem, I recommend a neti pot – it looks a bit like a watering can and effectively sluices your sinuses and nostrils,’ says Adam Simon, a GP with A J Primus Healthcare in Manchester and Cheshire.
Dress to impress: This has wide holes for the arms and neck, so it’s easier to get on and off
FOR AFTER SURGERY
Tickled Pink Post Surgery Pyjama Top, £8, Asda
This has wide holes for the arms and neck, so it’s easier to get on and off, and is made from fabric that’s light on skin (60 per cent polyester, 36 per cent viscose and 4 per cent elastane).
It has a partial split up the back to allow easy access for medical equipment, such as a drain from a wound, while staying discreet.
EXPERT COMMENT: ‘This is a particularly good design,’ says occupational therapist Helen Rushton. ‘Light nightwear is generally a good idea after any surgery where the wound is sensitive, especially for women who have had breast surgery. The front is seamless, so it’s less likely to catch on dressings or irritate any scar tissue.’
FOR FITNESS TRACKING
Popular: This device continuously monitors your heart rate, as well as tracking daily steps and calories burnt
Fitbit Alta HR Fitness Wristband, £99, Argos
This device continuously monitors your heart rate, as well as tracking daily steps and calories burnt – supposedly to give an accurate idea of your fitness level.
EXPERT COMMENT: ‘Lots of people wear these to ensure they do 10,000 steps a day,’ says Dr Sanjay Prasad, a consultant cardiologist at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London. ‘A better option to is to do regular, moderate-to-intense exercise. This monitor helps because I aim to exercise while at least at 50 to 70 per cent of my maximum heart rate (220 beats per minute minus your age).
‘Pushing the heart rate this way releases antioxidants called nitrates from blood vessels, which help them to open up, therefore improving your vascular function.
FOR ACHES AND PAINS
Relief: This ‘targets the nerves and muscles and dampens the perception of pain’
ActiPatch Muscle and Joint Pain, £20.28, amazon.co.uk
This device consists of a flexible wire loop that goes around the painful area and is attached to the skin using supplied medical adhesives.
The loop produces 1,000 electromagnetic pulses a second, which target the nerves and muscles and dampen the perception of pain, it’s claimed.
‘Provides long-lasting pain relief with no side-effect,’ says the manufacturer. ‘Relieves muscle and joint soreness, strains and sprains, arthritis and more.’
EXPERT COMMENT: ‘Nerve cells can remain in a high state of activity even after an injury heals,’ says Dr Clare Morrison, a GP at med express.co.uk. ‘This is comfortable and can be worn under clothes.’
FOR WINE DRINKERS
Cheers to that! This measuring cup has markings for different measures of alcohol
Unit measure cup, 90p, resources.drink aware.co.uk
This helpful plastic measuring cup has markings on it for different measures of alcohol, including beer, spirits and wine in 125ml, 175ml or 250ml glasses, and also tells you how many units your drink contains.
EXPERT COMMENT: ‘This is simple, yet effective,’ says Pia Henfridsson, a registered dietitian and obesity expert. ‘It’s a good way to familiarise yourself with units – most people have no idea what these actually look like poured out.
‘Men and women are meant to stick to fewer than 14 units a week and, though the primary reason to cut down should be for health (alcohol increases your risk of liver disease and cancers), you will save a lot of calories by cutting down, too.
‘A typical large glass of wine is 250ml, which, with a 14 per cent alcohol content, contains 3.5 alcohol units and 235 calories.’
FOR PELVIC FLOOR TONING
These three cones of varying weights are inserted to strengthen pelvic floor muscles
Kegel8 Vaginal Cones, £29.99, kegel8.co.uk
These three cones of varying weights are inserted to strengthen pelvic floor muscles.
The cones have a visual indicator attached, which protrudes out – this moves downwards when you’re doing the exercise correctly; upwards if not. They come with a 12-week exercise plan designed by a physiotherapist.
EXPERT COMMENT: ‘Using weighted cones is a bit like weight-lifting for vaginal muscles: it builds them up,’ says Dr Penelope Law, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Hillingdon Hospital and The Portland Hospital in London. ‘I like the way this tells you if you’re doing the exercises correctly and you can track progress to build up to heavier weights.’
Sleepy: This device delivers electric impulses to the upper branch of the trigeminal nerve
Cefaly II Migraine Device, £249, cefaly.co.uk
Attached to the forehead with an adhesive electrode, this small device – around the size of a pager – delivers electric impulses to the upper branch of the trigeminal nerve, which runs from the front of the ear to the forehead, cheek and jaw.
EXPERT COMMENT: ‘This was originally developed to ease migraine pain, as the trigeminal nerve is associated with pain in the head area – but I actually use it to help me sleep,’ says Dr Andrew Dowson, a migraine specialist at the East Kent Headache Service. ‘Stimulating the trigeminal nerve produces a relaxing effect and many migraine patients who try the device say that it also helps them fall asleep.
‘So, when I want to make sure I’ll sleep well, I’ll use it.
‘It sticks to the head a bit like a plaster and drops off by itself during the night, so doesn’t disturb my sleep – it switches off when contact is lost with the head.’
FOR LIMITED MOBILITY
Comforting: Designed for people having treatment for cancer, it could help anyone
This portable cushion is a fleece-covered, padded turntable that can rotate 360 degrees, allowing you to swing your body round without pain. It can be used on any chair.
Designed for people having treatment for cancer, it could help anyone with limited mobility.
EXPERT COMMENT: ‘This is a great piece of equipment,’ says occupational therapist Helen Rushton. ‘Many patients who have had major surgery find twisting and turning difficult – especially if the operation has involved the abdomen. Getting in and out of a car, for instance, can be impossible.
‘The cushion is especially helpful for those who have trouble lifting their legs and twisting simultaneously, such as people with arthritis.’
FOR HEALTHY EATING
Cooking up a storm: The ‘skinny’ wok has a dimpled surface, which, the maker claims, will mean foods are less likely to stick to it
School Of Wok ‘Skinny Wok’, £20.50, dexam.co.uk
The ‘skinny’ wok has a dimpled surface, which, the maker claims, will mean foods are less likely to stick to it, so you can stir-fry with less oil.
It has heatproof handles and is suitable for all types of hob.
EXPERT COMMENT: ‘I like wok cooking – foods such as stir-fries encourage the consumption of more vegetables,’ says registered dietitian Helen Bond. ‘But most traditional woks acquire a non-stick surface after being used regularly anyway and, even if you did end up adding a tablespoon less oil in a wok meal for four, you’d only save 34 calories per serving.
‘The advantage of this carbon-steel wok, though, is that it also imparts some dietary iron into food.’
FOR AFTER BREAST SURGERY
Discreet: This non-wired sports bra has two secure, hidden pockets, designed to keep in place a prosthesis
Post Surgery Extra High Impact Zip Front Non-Wired Sports Bra, £25, marksandspencer.com
Around 20,000 women a year in the UK undergo a mastectomy as a result of cancer. This non-wired sports bra has two secure, hidden pockets, designed to keep in place a prosthesis, even during workouts. It is machine-washable and available in cup sizes A-G.
EXPERT COMMENT: ‘This style of bra is for women who are returning to exercise following a mastectomy and is intended for wear during high-impact sport, when they need proper support,’ says occupational therapist Helen Rushton.
‘I’d suggest getting advice on a proper fitting, and make sure it does not irritate any sensitive areas or scar tissue.’
PS – DON’T BOTHER WITH…
Save your money! This rope ladder isn’t recommended by our health experts
Rope Ladder Bed Hoist, £12.29, livebetterwith.com
Designed to help people with limited mobility, or after surgery, sit up in bed, by pulling themselves up one rung at a time.
The cords on the end tie round the bottom legs of the bed and the ladder lies across the top of the bed.
EXPERT COMMENT: ‘I’m not sure how useful this is, because you still need to be able to use your muscles and shoulders and have a strong grip,’ says occupational therapist Helen Rushton.
‘Anyone who’d find it difficult to get out of bed would also find it difficult to use this, particularly patients who’ve had any abdominal or chest operation.’