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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
I came to know the Fitbit system through testing the company’s activity trackers, such as the Fitbit Charge HR, but you don’t actually need a tracker to use the mobile app. Without a tracker, the Fitbit app can count your steps (provided your carry your phone all day long), help you track the calories you consume, log your weight, and record other health information, such as blood pressure and glucose levels. If you do own a Fitbit tracker, the app is even easier to use because it logs a good amount of information about your activity automatically. And if you’re a full-blown Fitbit junkie, you might also add the Fitbit Aria bathroom scale$99.95 at Amazon, which will automatically add your weight to the app, too.
FitStar creates custom workouts for you based on your fitness level. You start by doing a few workouts with the app and you give it feedback as you go about which exercises were too tough, too easy, or just right. The app uses that information to create a routine that challenges you in all the right ways. FitStar was purchased by Fitbit in 2015 and now works with some Fitbit devices. The in-app coach is former NFL player Tony Gonzalez, a beefy workout buddy who is nothing but a bundle of positive, cheery feedback, and absolutely no excuses.
When you hit the gym, do you still carry a notebook or crumpled sheet of paper to all the stations and machines? Don’t. With mobile apps for the gym, there are better ways to keep track of your sets and reps. The Jefit Workout app gives you simple tools for crafting weight-lifting workouts and keeping track of the details as you complete your routines. You can log sets and reps, as well as how much you lifted. A calendar helps you plan your workout days and rest days. Jetfit Workout isn’t especially rich with features, but it gets the job done.
The Johnson & Johnson Official 7 Minute Workout App (free) helps you squeeze some exercise into your day at an intensity level that’s right for you. The interface is surprisingly attractive and clear. All you need is a chair and seven minutes—or about 11 minutes if you add a warm-up and cool down. A medium-intensity workout can include jumping jacks, pushups, wall chair, high-knee running in place, crunches, plank, side plank, triceps dips using a chair, and a few other moves. The app coaches you through each move as it comes up in the workout. It’s a great app for people of all ability levels.
Available on: Android, iOS, Kindle, Nook, and Web
The company that makes the Map My Run app for runners also makes a slew of similar apps for different sports, such as Map My Ride for cyclists and the more general purpose Map My Fitness. Although it might sound like Map My Fitness will give you the widest range of supported activities, really all the apps have settings that let you track different sports and workouts. In other words, you only need to download one of the apps, and you can use it for almost any activity (Map My Fitness has more than 600 activities). But beware: The free app keeps some of its features behind a subscription pay wall, starting at $5.99 per month or $29.99 per year. As with most fitness apps for running, walking, cycling, etc., Map My Fitness uses GPS to track the routes you travel, and shows you a map of the ground you covered when you’re done. It also displays length, in both time and distance, as well as pace, maximum speed, and a few other statistics.
The My Asics app by sneaker company Asics helps you create a training plan for running a race. Whether you’re on route to your first 3K or your fifth marathon, there’s a great deal of value in getting a race-training schedule for free. It’s usually a premium feature in other run-tracking apps. My Asics isn’t the best at tracking runs, but it gets the job done. The reason to use it is for the training schedules, as well as the customizations that come with it. If you can use the app to track your miles and pace and do well, then it will offer to push you harder in your program. If it realizes you’re a beginner with a long way to go, your plan will adjust to stay within your reach.
We live in a world of temptation, cheap pleasures, stress, and convenience—all of which can affect our diet and health. MyFitnessPal is a mobile app and website that gives you a wealth of tools for tracking what and how much you eat, and how many calories you burn through activity. Of all the calorie counters I’ve used, MyFitnessPal is by far the easiest one to manage, and it comes with the largest database of foods and drinks. With the MyFitnessPal app you can fastidiously watch what you eat 24/7, no matter where you are.
Pact, formerly known as Gympact, is an app that you use to wager money on whether you’ll go to the gym or complete a workout. The app verifies if you’ve hit your goals by making sure you check in to the venues where you said you’d pump some iron. If you reach or exceed your goals, you earn cash. If you don’t, you have to pay up. The pot is communal, and there are a lot of slackers out there pouring money into it.
Pear Personal Coach
Free for app; requires heart rate monitor
Available on: iOS
The Pear Personal Coach app talks you through runs, at-home workouts, yoga routines, and even training programs for running races. Real human voices make the audio part of the experience excellent. The app is free, but in-app purchases can add up. The Android version is called Pear Interactive Coach.
RockMyRun changes the tempo of your running music based on your footfalls or heart rate. It also lets you set the tempo of a playlist, if you’d rather try to make your feet keep up with the music. Not every playlist in the RockMyRun app has these advanced features, but many do. With a wide variety of genres, including classical, RockMyRun has plenty of music to explore. In action, the music sounded a little more frenetic than I had imagined it would, but it’s a neat app nonetheless and great for those who like to explore new music while running. You can try RockMyRun for free for a week, no credit card required. After that, you’ll have to pay $4.99 per month or $35.99 per year to keep using it.
Rich with stats, highly customizable, and with an astoundingly low price for Elite membership, Runmeter is the best running app for data-lovers. Note that the $4.99 price for Elite membership is per
year, making it the least expensive running-app membership you’ll find. It’s for iOS only, however, so if you switch between having an iPhone and an Android phone, it might not be best for you.
Runtastic Pro lets you measure and track your runs, walks, and other exercises, but it also doubles as a coaching app to motivate you to keep working toward your goals. You can use it to train for races, too. The $4.99 Pro version is worthwhile, because the free app lacks (and tries to sell to you through in-app purchases) many of the features that are central to the experience, such as the coaching features, voice feedback, and music player integration. The one-time fee, rather than a subscription, makes Runtastic Pro a good deal.
The Runtastic Six Pack Abs app will leave your midsection muscles burning for days—or simply tighten that tummy, depending on the difficulty level you choose. It’s a solid coaching app that targets abs through a wide variety of exercise moves. A human voice (available in several languages) counts through your sets and reps, while a video of an avatar shows you the correct form for each exercise. Some of the training programs are weeks long, and there’s plenty of variety along the way.
Spring Running Music helps you discover new music during your workouts. This iPhone-only app supports a number of different activities, including running, walking, interval training, bicycling, and more. It has a huge collection of more than 40,000 songs, as well as some pre-made playlists for workouts. With Spring, you keep your pace to the beat, and you can change the music’s tempo during your workout if you’re looking to slow down or speed up. Subscriptions cost $2.99 per month, $24.99 per year, or $74.99 for a lifetime plan.
Music streaming app Spotify now packs playlists and special features designed for working out. The Running feature, which debuted in 2015, for example, finds your running tempo and plays songs that have a beat that matches it. Spotify also created a few custom Running Original playlists, DJ-mixed electronic music that’ll perk up your workout, even if running isn’t your thing. Spotify’s fitness-focused features are for Premium members only, so expect to pay $9.99 per month for the running and working out music.
Runners, bicyclists, and other outdoor types have a host of apps and devices they can use to track their activities. The best one for competitive types is Strava. Whether you’re competing against yourself to beat your best time, or looking at the long list of strangers on the leaderboard who have smoked you on some nasty uphill stretch of your favorite route, Strava brings a fierce competitive angle. This freemium app is a great one to download if you crave having the heat turned up.
Sworkit coaches you through workout routines that are designed to meet your goals, whether it’s to improve your cardio health, become more flexible, increase strength, and so forth. Within sections, you can choose to work on certain parts of your body, too, such as doing a strength workout that focuses on your core. One extra feature I like is that Sworkit’s includes music options from Spotify, so you can stream a premade workout mix. Paying for a Premium account unlocks even more workouts.
One of the most fun and challenging workout apps I’ve tested is Touchfit: GSP. The GSP stands for Georges St-Pierre, your workout coach and MMA World Champion. He created a number of muscle-boosting routines that he’ll coach you through while you use his app. First you complete a test workout, in which you rate different exercises as easy, tough, impossible, or “need to learn.” Your answers from that and subsequent workouts inform the app going forward about your difficulty level. The more you exercise, the better the customizations become. You’re always challenged without being asked to go beyond your capabilities. Touchfit is similar to FitStar, but St-Pierre’s strict style is very different from Gonzalez’s upbeat nature.
Need a professional health coach to help you meet your fitness goals? For $15 per week, Vida Health Coach gives you in-app access to a personal coach who works with you one-on-one no matter what your health or fitness objectives are. Once a week, you can talk to your coach by phone or video conference, too, to get real advice. The coaches have a range of certifications and specializations, so if you have, say, gestational diabetes, you’ll be able to work with someone who understands your special needs.