Five Mobile Fitness Apps to Get You in Crazy Good Shape
The neverending Fitness Revolution has a new friend - the mobile app.
While it's not the same as having a personal trainer shrieking in your ear, exhorting you to go faster and longer, there are plenty of reasons that people looking to get in better shape have embraced the idea of grabbing a little help from technology. But which fitness apps are the best for helping stick to an exercise routine? The list of choices is long and grows longer daily, it seems.
Here are our five favourite options for turning yourself from a couch sloth into a lean, mean, exercising machine.
What Does a Fitness App Actually Do?
Granted, no app living on your phone is going to physically drag you out of bed and off to the gym on those mornings you'd rather huddle, comatose, beneath the sheets.
What it can do is tilt the balance in favour of movement rather than repose by providing a range of tracking tools that help you see more clearly the progress you make. From a simple counting of calories to displaying statistics about how far and fast you've run, walked, or ridden your bicycle, the tiny nudge of accountability - even if it's only delivered by a little software program - could be a real difference-maker in your ultimate physical health.
My Fitness Pal
The MyFitnessPal app is accompanied by a website and online community that work together to try and provide that ethereal workout motivation for which so many strive. The app offers an easy-to-use interface for tracking what you eat, how many calories it contains, how much you exercise, etc. It also offers a handy weight graph that shows your weight loss success in a visual friendly format.
Founded in 2005, MyFitnessPal has stood what passes for the "test of time" in the internet world. The app is free to download, install, and use, though it offers a premium version with enhanced features if you want to cough up the $10 monthly fee. Essentially, this app is a calorie-counter. You set goals and enter everything you eat throughout the day. It's not everyone's favourite way to diet, but if you like this approach, MyFitnessPal is right up your alley.
Some complaints regarding the app focus on the idea that it's too time intensive to enter the nutrition information for every single food you eat. There's no denying it takes initial effort, but once you enter a food's data, it can be easily recalled when you use it again in the future. The bottom line is that there is science behind the idea that counting calories works as a weight-loss plan. Towards that end, MyFitnessPal has shown itself to be an excellent tool.
Johnson & Johnson 7-Minute Workout
Perhaps the number one excuse offered up as to why workouts don't get done is the lack of time. There's no doubt; it's a busy world we live in but are you seriously going to say that you can't find seven minutes at some point in the day to tend to your health? If not, consider chopping out those Dr Phil re-runs or at least re-prioritize a few of your daily tasks. If you haven't guessed by now, the 7-Minute Workout earns its name because it alleges to get you into tip-top shape in that amount of time each day.
But is that claim realistic?
Turns out that, yeah, it sort of is.
First of all, the 7-Minute Workout app is about simplicity. You should be able to put yourself through it using nothing more than a yoga mat, the wall, and a stool or chair. The focus is to use body resistance for weight and low-tech tried-and-true exercises like jumping jacks, sit-ups, and push-ups, allowing you to blast through a short workout without having to head to the gym. Drop and do the workout right beside your desk if you must.
The idea of short workouts that consist of going from one exercise to the next with little rest in between may not be entirely original, but the exercise physiologists at Johnson & Johnson were able to put it into an appealing and easily used package that anyone can download from the app store for either Apple or Android.
Lots of people rely on the 7-Minute Workout when they travel, however, you might decide to make it a part of your daily routine as your primary fitness tool. Just open the thing up and follow along with some dude named Jordan as he guides you through the routine of your choice. While the short variety is the one marketers focus on, there are others to choose from inside the app as well. The thing to remember is that If you’ve got seven minutes, you’ve got time to get in shape.
Running is an uber-popular way of getting and staying in shape. The free app RunKeeper is one of the most popular ways to feed the treadmill or roadwork addiction, and, oh, by the way, now integrates streaming music from Spotify so you can easily integrate your workout playlist into the mix.
RunKeeper started life as a paid app but then switched to a free format with in-app purchases. Though initially built around the iPhone's GPS positioning technology, these days you can pair the app with either the Apple Watch, Fitbit, Pebbles, or any other supported device.
The best part about RunKeeper is that its dead simple to use. Once you open it up, you might have to wait a few seconds for it to lock onto a satellite. After that, all you need to do is pick your music playlist, tap ‘start run' and take off. Data recorded includes total mileage, calorie count, pace, and speed. Obviously, maintaining a solid GPS signal is critical to accurate information, so you might find yourself frequently frustrated if you live in an area with spotty coverage. That is one of the few drawbacks of this app when compared to others that do all the pertinent calculations locally.
After your run, it’s an easy matter to trash the data, upload it to social media, or save it to your exercise history to savor progress at a later date. While the in-app purchases can be a little expensive, they do offer dedicated runners a chance to access a personal trainer or even targeted programs for marathon training or other ‘serious’ goals.
The bottom line - if you like to run, RunKeeper is a great app to start with.
Speaking of music, RockMyRun is a modestly-priced ($4.99 one-time charge) app that allows you to add a personalised tempo to whatever type of workout you like. Except swimming, maybe.
Probably don't want to take the smartphones and earbuds into the water with you. It takes about five minutes to set up your account but, after that, you're ready to rock yourself into the great wide open. Keep in mind that the app does offer some basic data features about your run length and time, but it's really all about the music.
Here’s how it works.
Music is found under the ‘Mixes' tab. Take a few minutes before your first outing to explore the playlists, which are broken down by length and beat tempo. One of the cool features is the ability to adjust the natural tempo of the beat, making it faster or slower to match your natural running speed better. Genres range from 1980's pop all the way to classical if that's what floats your boat. Try RockMyRun free for a week before taking the financial plunge. Maybe you'll like it and maybe you won't, but we think it's kinda cool.
Would you like to get paid to workout? That’s the premise behind the GymPact app. Seriously. Before you get all gaga at the thought of all that filthy lucre rolling into your bank account, let’s get something out of the way. You’ll probably make .50 to .75 cents per workout, or a max of $2.10 if you get your three workouts in, while at the same time being dinged for a $5 penalty if you miss a workout. Even if you’re completely dedicated, compensation will not be a substitute for a job.
The setup is simple. Download and install the app and designate a building as your gym. As long as you go there and stay at least 30 minutes, bingo, it's reward city. Time will tell if this financial reward/punishment system works in the long run, but if you're a human being who responds to this type of arrangement, by all means, give GymPact a test drive. And don't bother trying to fool the database by calling your office, home, or favourite local restaurant a ‘gym.' They'll figure it out.
The Bottom Line
The preceding five fitness apps are some of the most popular and/or interesting mobile fitness apps to hit the market in recent years.
While no app is a panacea, if your track record of sticking to a workout routine has been less than impressive, one of these might provide that extra bit of motivation and organisation that finally helps you defeat the snooze button and get in shape. You never know until you try.