woman running outside on a trail

Fitness & Health Apps

Remember back in the dim, distant past, when you had a training journal and a pen and went to the gym with the latest workout book, rather than a phone? Well technology has moved on and there are now a whole range of phone apps to help out and make your workouts more interesting and motivating.

The handy thing is that most of us these days are never without our mobiles, which is perfect, because there are a whole host of diet and fitness apps that will help you stay on track and give you the best ideas for your workout and beyond. So there’s really no excuse not to stay on track and reach your goals.

One of the UK’s leading personal trainers, Jonathan Lomax, from LOMAX, Chelsea in London, says: “I think what’s really great about the whole concept of phone diet and fitness apps is that they are really convenient for those with busy lives who are looking for instant knowledge, guidance and motivation from personal trainers and nutritionists for a fraction of the cost.

“They are also incredibly motivating,” he says, “and can help people gauge progress and measure success in their quests for improved health and body composition. Whether it’s using GPS to track your routes and record your time or distance for running, or sending motivational push notifications that chime like an alarm when you have scheduled a workout, they can give you that extra push in the right direction and make working out more fun and exciting.”

So with an avalanche of fitness apps out there, how do you choose the right one for you? Fitness expert and writer Lucy Miller finds out.

Are you a running fan? Strava Run

According to Triathlete Magazine: “The Strava Run phone app lets you get competitive any time you want. It ranks a user’s performance and compares it over specific courses to thousands of other athletes, with a worldwide leader board.”

But how does it work? The app is designed around a leader board system, which then connects with your phone’s mapping app, to not only keep track of your run but also keep track of others using the app on the same run. It kept me really motivated during my workouts as I constantly worked my hardest to try to beat the time of someone who I’d never met but was running the same route.

On top of the leader boards and the mapping, Strava Run also provided me with full statistical readouts of my run, like how many calories I burnt, my average speed and other elements such as elevation and total runs to date, which was all mapped out in easy-to-read graphs. I found this to be a really motivating app, especially as the winter is setting in and my workouts tend to suffer.

How much? Free or you can purchase a Strava membership, which includes an intelligent pace zone map, to help you figure out how much effort you put in during a run and a heart rate analyzer – using biometric sensors (if you have them) – which will create a special suffer score showing how much stress you put your body under. If you want to be ultra competitive, you can also filter leaderboards by weight and age.

Want to move more? Moves

The Moves app is an innovative way to combine traditional fitness tracking without the need of an external wrist-band or other physical tracking device, like a Nike Fuel Band or UP by Jawbone. It does this by essentially acting as a pedometer when your iPhone is placed in your pocket. It uses your iPhone’s location and directional sensors not only to tell whether you’ve been sitting, walking, running, cycling, or taking public transport, but also to chart your journey along the way.

I loved the timeline you get at the end of each day, which provides you with a full map of where you’ve been, how long you were there and what you did during that time. It’s a really nifty way to keep tabs on your fitness-and to keep an automated diary of your movements too, which can then be shared via Facebook, Twitter and email. I found that seeing my everyday activity in black and white inspired me to think about how active I am (or not) in the day. Also, it’s true, small changes really can make a big difference, especially after researchers from Oregon State University found that incidental exercise, like walking, climbing the stairs and generally moving more can be just as beneficial as going to the gym.

How much? Free

Want a free workout generator? Nike Training Club

This nifty app has been created by Nike which, to me, gave it good credibility for a safe, expert-led workout, while providing me with a number of great workouts relating to my goals, time limit and ability.

You have a “Get Lean” option, which consists of High Intensity Training (HIT) drills, a “Get Toned” and “Get Strong” option that included resistance type exercises like deadlifts, shoulder presses and Russian twists and lastly a “Get Focused” option that offers short, 15-minute workouts that target specific body parts, like your legs, abs or cardio.

Each workout could last for 15, 30 or 45 minutes depending on your time constraints and you can tailor the workout to your ability: beginner, intermediate and advanced.

I loved how this app did all the hard work of planning my workouts for me (there’s nothing worse than walking into a gym not knowing what to do) and above all gave me demonstrations of each move and timed me when doing them, so I didn’t have to worry about my watch or counting reps.

To make working out more fun you can also play your favorite playlist, while the NTC instructor tells you how to do the exercise or what things you need to pay attention to (she’ll explain the most common faults people do during that exercise). Plus on completion of your workout you’ll get a badge, like drill seeker, destroyer or all-star, which you can collect the more you workout. So far, I haven’t done the same workout twice, which is great for keeping boredom at bay and shocking the body to see some great results.

How much? Free

 

Want an effective workout anywhere? FitStar

Awarded App Store Editors’ Choice and perfect for anyone who has a specific goal in mind, this app makes it easy to work out anywhere, anytime.

Once you have punched in some personal info like your age, gender, weight, height and overall goal, you’ll do a fitness test before the app creates a “Get Moving” plan, which gives you a four-week fitness regime made up of two 10 to 20 minute sessions.

Before you get going, these workouts will then be demonstrated, so you know what you are doing, plus after you’ve finished, the app will ask you a series of questions, like how many reps you were able to complete and how you felt throughout the workout. I loved that it took my responses into account so it could adjust my next workout accordingly for next time.

My only quibble is that while the basic app is free, individual workout programs will cost you, depending on what you’re looking for. These programs are however, catered to your goals including a “Bootcamp” plan and a killer, 12-week “Get Lean,” plan.

This is a nice app for getting you off the sofa and to motivate you to move your body, with lots of video content and extra support from American football star Tony Gonzalez, your very own virtual personal trainer.

How much? Free

Want to lose weight and keep track of your food intake? Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal

Voted ‘Wired Magazine’s Editor’s Pick for Lifestyle app’, My Fitness Pal is the easiest-to-use calorie-tracking app I’ve come across – and I’ve tried lots.

To get started, you’ll be asked to create a profile and enter key details, such as your age, gender and current weight. Then you confirm how much you would like to lose (or gain). The app will then recommend a time frame for you to achieve your goal and calculate the correct daily calorie consumption to help get you there.

All you have to do is log exactly what you eat, which is as easy as manually typing in what you’ve eaten and searching through the extensive database or scanning in what you’re eating and then allowing the app to find it for you.¬†At the end of the day it will calculate how much you’ve eaten and how much you’ve burnt off, while providing you with graphs and statistics to help summarize your days and weeks. I found these really helpful for establishing days of the week, or times of day, when I ate too many or too few calories for my needs.

This is a really easy app to use that definitely puts into perspective how much you are really eating on a daily basis – there is no hiding from the facts when it’s all there in black and white.

How much? Free

Get the most out of your apps

It’s all very easy to download an app, punch in all the necessary detail and then not use it to its full potential, or not use it at all. So to get the most out of your apps, personal trainer Jonathan recommends that you find one that suits you and your needs: “Health and fitness apps rely on you doing things properly, and if you aren’t recording what you’re doing or skipping sections of the workouts then you might as well not use it.”

Yes, apps are good fun, they are cheap and come with some great features, but you still need to be self-motivated and push yourself. If you’re not the type of person to do this, then maybe you should stick to a real life trainer, who will monitor you properly and make sure you are doing your workout to your full potential.

The author’s opinions and conclusions are her own.

Source: WebMD: Health and fitness apps by Lucy Miller