I am a Club Living Room cardholder. Don’t get me wrong: I used to go to the gym at least three times a week. But when I started working – and training – at home, I became a convert. Mainly because of the fitness apps.
These apps have saved me money and fit everywhere in my chaotic schedule. Even with the return to in-person workouts, I plan to keep them in my routine. For most people, regardless of their age, physical condition, or amount of disposable income, the smartest route to fitness is through an app.
Of course, connected gym equipment provides an integrated, distraction-free, sensor-laden social experience. But it has high upfront costs plus a monthly subscription, and often runs proprietary software that doesn’t work with other content providers.
Fitness apps, on the other hand, can be customized to work out at home or in a gym, with or without equipment, as well as outdoors. They can make training at home or wherever you are easy, fun, and effective – as long as you choose the right one. The number of options is overwhelming: App Annie, a mobile analytics company, estimates that the iOS and Android app stores had at least 71,000 health and fitness apps in the world in 2020.
What Should a Good Fitness App Offer? And how do you use an app to create a well-balanced and sustainable exercise routine?
“Fitness is not one size fits all. A good app will take that into account by providing variety,” said Zakkoyya Lewis-Trammell, assistant professor of kinesiology at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. That could mean a mix of workouts by duration, intensity and style that allows you to choose according to your needs and your level of fitness.
The most important aspect of a fitness app is that it offers exercises that you enjoy doing, according to Aimee Layton, assistant professor of physiology at Columbia University Medical Center and a member of the Advisory Council on Health and Wellness. Peloton, or combine something you like to do with exercise, for example, watching TV while using an indoor cycling app such as Zwift.
“Self-efficacy,” or believing that you can be successful at doing what the program asks you to do, is another key characteristic, says Dr. Layton.
After testing dozens of different fitness apps, I have a few tips for myself:
• Free content on YouTube and free trials can help you determine what type of exercise you enjoy doing before committing to a program. (On iOS and Android, you can opt out immediately to avoid being charged.) A paid subscription, however, can mean a better experience and greater engagement.
• During an activity, turn on Do not disturb. An email pop-up can quickly cut a workout short. (On iOS, you can even set up a fitness-specific Focus mode to let the really important things happen.)
• Access to downloadable courses is useful, especially for frequent travelers or people with poor internet connection.
The following apps, my favorites over the past year, have all of the above in mind. They allowed me to participate in many different types of workouts, as well as warm-up and cool-down options to avoid injury. But, of course, working out is a very personal activity, so try before you buy – all of these platforms offer a free trial.
It’s for: Fitness enthusiasts motivated by music
Price: $ 13 per month
Platforms: iOS, Android, Web, Apple AAPL 0.10%
TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Android TV
Peloton offers a lot to its app subscribers, customers who don’t have the company’s expensive bike or treadmill. Connect to multiple live streams per day or download on-demand workouts offline. The app’s music-themed Artist series workouts are the best: try the BTS tour, AC / DC full body strength class, and Beyoncé cardio dance. There are also races and guided walks in the open air. You can connect a Bluetooth heart rate sensor or an Apple Watch to see an “effort score” based on heart rate zones. App users can’t see how their metrics stack up against other members on Peloton’s leaderboard, which is exclusive to people who own its gear.
It’s for: Those focused on mindfulness
Price: $ 20 per month or $ 199 per year
Platforms: iOS, Android, Web, Apple TV, Chromecast
The Alo Moves library is packed with content for people who prefer to move on a yoga mat. From stimulating power yoga to epic meditation in a bath of sound, the app offers a range of classes. There are also bar, Pilates and strength workouts. You do not know where to start ? Immerse yourself in one of the Alo Moves series, which includes a virtual yoga retreat to the island of Santorini. If you can’t be in Greece, do your workout outdoors – any class you’ve marked can be downloaded offline.
It’s for: People who want a plan
Price: $ 20 per month, or $ 120 per year
Platforms: iOS, Android, Internet
Sweat is a personalized training app based on 37 different programs that range from two weeks to over 24. After selecting a program, the app plots your training program on a calendar. Instead of a guided studio-style workout, Sweat puts together custom workouts for each workout. You can grab the equipment you have access to, choose your own playlist, select the pre-workout warm-up, and override exercises that are too easy or difficult. And if you need inspiration for your meals, the app has daily healthy recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack. Unfortunately, offline workouts are not supported.
It’s for: Apple Watch users
Price: $ 10 per month or $ 80 per year
Platforms: iOS, Apple Watch, Apple TV
Apple’s platform offers guided activities in 10 different disciplines, including cycling and Pilates. Most of the workouts, which can be streamed or downloaded, are for beginners and low impact; there are programs specially designed for the elderly and pregnant women. Fitness + requires users to have an Apple Watch Series 3 or newer. Watch stats, such as heart rate and calories, appear on the screen during workouts. On Monday, the app launches audio and guided outdoor running workouts called Time to Run. New episodes will be delivered weekly and downloaded to the paired Apple Watch.
Fitness + is most beneficial when shared: Everyone in your iCloud household (up to six people) can use a single subscription, but they all need an Apple Watch.
It’s for: People who want personal training and empowerment
Price: $ 149 per month
Platforms: iOS and Apple Watch
Choosing a workout, like choosing what to watch on Netflix,
can be intimidating. Future takes the guesswork out of developing a training plan. First, you’re paired with a live personal trainer, who you’ll discuss your schedule, gear, and goals on FaceTime. Then, each week, your coach will send out a program that includes a personalized set of exercises and track your progress on your Apple Watch, as needed. (The company plans to expand to Android this year.)
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
What’s your favorite digital fitness platform? Join the conversation below.
You can upload a video of your workouts to get feedback on your form. Are you traveling or need a day off? Message your trainer through the app to change your workouts accordingly. The main feature of the app is accountability – your trainer may nudge you if your Apple Watch stats suggest you’re not on plan.
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Write to Nicole Nguyen at [email protected]
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