Technology today undoubtedly can help us get healthier, whether that means sticking to a regular cross training routine or making more nutritious food choices. It can keep us entertained on that long elliptical or treadmill session, tell us how much we are moving each day, estimate our caloric intake and analyze our sleep patterns.
Touchscreens on current cardio equipment at the gym offer a multitude of workouts, along with results tracking capabilities and synchronization with specific fitness apps and wearables. Plus, you can multitask by reading emails, reviewing social media, checking the latest scores for your favorite teams and catching up on TV shows.
Even more, with the multitude of apps, you can now carry several virtual personal trainers in your phone – all designed to improve your training, keep you working toward results and be fitter. Some studies report that people who use fitness apps are more active and have a lower body mass index.
But because there are so many apps, it can be overwhelming to know which ones are best for you. And, if you want to be smart with storage space on your phone, you can’t download all of the apps that sound interesting. So where do you start when it comes to apps to improve your fitness?
Before even beginning to research apps, carefully consider what you are looking for. Why do you want an app or two? Are you trying to cut calories, lose weight or become more active? Do you want to run a 10K or a Tough Mudder race? Are you starting a strength training program or aiming to become more flexible?
Your goals should drive your app selection. You should find the one that is the best at what you’re specifically trying to measure, or accomplish. If you have several objectives, you may end up with more than one app, but make sure that the apps you choose are for the purposes that you seek.
Also, consider your tech-savviness and comfort level. How easy is the app to use, or does it have a lot of interface options that you won’t use or that complicate the functionality? Will you be downloading the results on the app with your PC, or will you want the app to synch with the cardio machines you use at the gym? Or do you prefer to simply keep it basic, solely using the app and reviewing results on your phone?
Finally, check costs. While many apps are free, some have an initial price and others require an ongoing monthly/quarterly/annual fee. There’s nothing wrong with paying for the app, provided that you use it, value the information and feel that it is worth it.
Lastly, as you start to research options, ask your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors or fitness professionals at the gym what fitness apps they like and why. Make a note of those that interest you.
Check Them Out
Take some time to check out different apps before downloading them. Although this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, here are some of the most popular apps to improve your fitness:
- MyFitnessPal – Features a step counter and calorie counter, along with a database of 5 million foods, a barcode recipe scanner and a recipe importer. An easy way to track caloric intake and match it to calorie expenditure.
- Sworkit – Standing for Simply Work It, this popular app shows exercise videos by personal trainers, with more than 200 types of exercises. You can choose a preset workout or have the app design one for you based on specific criteria that you designate. This also has a section for kids’ fitness, which is a bonus.
- ACTIVEx – Includes personalized or group Tabata workouts, with expert coaching, along with community support. Also includes training plans for 5Ks, 10Ks and more.
- Couch to 5K – This gets non-runners ready for a 5K in nine weeks, with three workouts weekly. You get an interactive coach and a huge community to ask questions of and share successes with.
- MapMyRun – With more than 70 million routes, this app shows you the most popular ones when you type in your zip code, and distance, if you prefer. This is great for frequent travelers.
- Pear Personal Coach – You get hundreds of interactive audio workouts from coaches and fitness professionals, who react to your data and make recommendations in real time, just like a personal trainer.
- Lose It! – This app gives you a daily calorie allotment and then counts calories along the way, as you input food consumed or scan barcodes. You can also log exercise here to increase your calorie intake limit.
- RunKeeper – Runners get all their basic data in one place, and can set goals, which gives them a coach to guide them through workouts to get accomplish them.
- Strava – A popular app for competitive cyclists and runners, it measures lots of performance data and synchs with Garmin smartwatches. The leaderboard breeds competition and motivation.
- FIT Radio – Now you can find the perfect playlist for cycling, running, yoga and more with this music streaming app featuring DJ mixes with a consistent beat for specific types of workouts.
- Fitness Buddy – Includes more than 1,000 videos and 4,000 exercise photos and animations to guide you through workouts safely and effectively. You can build and save your own workouts using the database as well, and track your progress.
- CycleCast – Your own spin class via your phone, CycleCast lets you pick class length, a playlist and the instructor, and you’re off on your personal ride.
- Spotify Running – Part of the Spotify app, this measures your cadence and selects music to match to keep you motivated and energized. There’s pop, hip-hop, classical and original songs.
- FitStar Personal Trainer – High-definition videos and custom audio tracks accompany customized workouts based on your fitness goals.
- Pocket Yoga – Just like it sounds, you get more than 200 poses on your phone – with illustrations, descriptions and benefits – along with a log to track your progress.
- Charity Miles – Choose from 40 organizations and start walking, running or cycling to earn cash for your favorite charity just by breaking a sweat.
- Calm – Benefit from guided meditations, some with specific purposes, such as reducing anxiety or fostering forgiveness.
- Athleats – With more than 60,000 healthy recipes (along with nutritional data), you’ll never wonder what to make for dinner again. You also can track calories, make grocery lists and plan upcoming meals.
- Fitnet – If you can’t make it to the gym, this app has you covered with a ton of 5- and 7-minute workouts you can crank out at home.
- Freeletics – With more than 900 bodyweight workouts that last 10 to 30 minutes, this app eliminates your excuses of no time to exercise.
- HVT – For use with the Nautilus HVT machine, this provides 50 trainer-led workouts in the Sprint, Builder and Circuit categories. It also supports Apple’s Health app.