If you’re trying to lose weight, walk more steps each day, or push yourself through a brutal morning workout, fitness apps can help. Mobile apps are ideal assistants for health, fitness, and weight-loss because they are always with us, and they’re quite personal. Maintaining fitness requires daily habits and lifestyle changes, and a few little nudges in the right direction from your mobile phone might make all the difference.
Some of the apps highlighted here are tracking tools. You can log workouts, count calories, and collect stats about runs, walks, and bike rides to see overtime how you’re improving. Fitness apps can also be coaching apps that put you in touch with a personal trainer or nutritionist who will check in with you once a week. And some, of course, combine all these things.
One of my personal favorite apps for health and fitness is MyFitnessPal. This free app lets you count the calories that you consume everyday as well as tally up the calories you expend, and then see if they balance. It’s compatible with a number of fitness trackers, which means MyFitnessPal can estimate how many calories you burn automatically by pulling in your activity data from your tracker. MyFitnessPal is wonderful at helping you become more aware of your eating habits and just how much exercise it takes to burn off the food you eat.
Another app I love is The Johnson & Johnson Official 7 Minute Workout because it helps anyone get some amount of exercise in a very short amount of time. Unlike other seven-minute workout apps, The Johnson & Johnson app adjusts its level of difficulty based on your current fitness level. It’s also extremely well polished. It also has workouts that are longer than seven minutes for days when you have a little more time, and it’s great for busy travellers, too, because it doesn’t require anything more than a chair. Even shoes are optional.
Not everyone in the market for a great fitness app wants to count calories or get coached through a quick workout. Some are just looking for a little music to motivate them. Music workout apps were a hot item in 2015. FIT Radio, for example, specializes in create playlists that you can play over your headphones for a variety of workouts, such as running and yoga. All the songs in the playlist have a consistent beat. The music streaming service app Spotify has a great feature for Premium subscribers that lets them find their running tempo and get songs with a beat that match it. Once the app finds your tempo, it leaves the beats-per-minute setting alone, so your music becomes a metronome of sorts. RockMyRun has a similar feature, only the music it plays speeds up and slows down in real time as your cadence changes.
Other apps tap into your competitive side to motivate you to work out. For example, Strava is a running and bicycling app that lets you compete against every other person who has signed up to use the app. You use Strava to track your runs and bicycle rides, and other Strava members do the same. The app collects everyone’s routes and times, breaks them into segments, and then tells you who has the best time along different stretches of roads and trails. If you’re the fastest on the road, everyone else using Strava near you will know it.
Another app for competitive types is Pact (formerly called GymPact). You wager money on whether you’ll go to the gym as often as you say you will, and you can earn actual cash if you stick to your guns. The app uses your GPS location to verify whether you actually made it to the gym and stayed to work out. Fall short, and your money goes into the pot for others.
Perhaps you’re more motivated by helping others than winning a pot of cash yourself. There’s an app for that, too. Charity Miles is an app that tracks workouts, such as runs, walks, and bicycle rides and donates money for every mile you complete. Corporate sponsors foot the bill and make donations on your behalf. All you have to do is look at their sponsorship logos or ads when you fire up the app. Before you workout, you can choose which charity will benefit from your miles from a list.
No matter what kind of motivation or daily prodding you need to meet your fitness goals, there’s an app that can push you in the right direction.
- Charity Miles
Earn money for charities every time you run, walk, or bicycle by using the free Charity Miles app. Corporate sponsors (whose information you’ll see as a backdrop image in the app) agree to donate a few cents for every mile you complete. Browse the app’s list of charities, find the one that you support, and then hit the road. When a lot of people use Charity Miles, those little bits of money add up.
The best bicycle-ride tracking app I’ve tested is Cyclemeter by Abvio. This iOS-only app collects a wealth of data, is very accurate, contains several well-thought-out features, and appeals to fitness enthusiasts who participate in more than one sport. Despite the name, you can use Cyclemeter to track walks, runs, and other activities. It does not include a calorie-counting component, but it is packed with data about your biking outings.
- Digifit iCardio
If you want real hard stats about your workouts, accelerometers and GPS aren’t enough. You need a heart rate monitor…and an app that can access the information it collects. One option is the Digifit iCardio app for iPhone and Android (it’s called simply iCardio in Google Play). You can pair it with any supported heart rate monitor to track your runs, bicycle rides, and other workouts. Digifit iCardio records heart rate, of course, but also distance, time, and pace. All the components needed to track heart rate can add up, so plan to spend somewhere in the $50 to $100 range to get full use of this app. If you’re in the market for a heart rate monitor, I recommend the MIO Link$74.00 at Amazon wristband.
Endomondo tracks your runs, bike rides, and other outdoor activities with good accuracy and a simple interface. Its training plans and coaching features, which are limited to Premium subscribers, definitely improve the Endomondo experience.
- FIT Radio
FIT Radio is a music-streaming app that specializes in DJ-created mixes that maintain a consistent beat. You can browse mixes by genre, DJ, or type of workout, such as Spin, Zumba, or yoga. If you like exploring new music and never want to think about putting together a workout mix on your own, FIT Radio is a great fitness app to try. FIT Radio is free to use, but with the free level, you get only one genre of music (the “FIT Radio Free” genre) and only a few mixes. A premium membership gets you more than 25 genres and stations, access to more mixes, unlimited skips, track list information, the ability to save favorites, DJ profiles, and no ads. Premium membership costs $3.99 per month, $27.99 for the year, or $79.99 for a lifetime.