Wearable devices have become more and more popular recently, making it easy to monitor your activity and health using fitness and activity trackers. From watching your daily steps, your calories, to tracking your intensive workouts, having a healthy lifestyle is the new trend. Since we already have our phone with us 24/7, the best way to become a healthier you is with the help of a fitness and health app. Whether you want to track your daily steps, or your calories, lose weight, have a better sleep and work out, health and fitness apps can help you. But how to choose from this big variety of fitness apps and which are actually the best fitness apps for Android or iOS? There is Fitbit vs. MyFitnessPal and many others that focus on different features. The right health and fitness app for you, mostly depends on what you need it for. We have compiled a list of important features that will inform and help you find your ideal assistant.
There are basically two major kinds of fitness apps. The ones that are generally more focused on tracking your fitness activity and the apps which focus more on monitoring your health. Continue here, if your focus is on fitness and workouts, or jump over the fitness part and continue with health monitoring features.
1.1 Fitness Apps
Fitness apps are mainly focused on activity tracking, so basically every app tracks the number of steps and the distance you walk every day. More advanced apps track activities, like cycling and swimming, as well as a big quantity of data, which is very important for your activity reports. Endomondo or Cyclemeter for iOS are good examples. Cyclemeter is not only for cycling enthusiasts but also tracks with high accuracy, a big amount of data when running and walking. For running and cycling enthusiasts, Strava might also be interesting, monitoring data like: distance, speed, heart rate, power, cadence, elevation and calories burned, with very simple graphics. Of course, the more activities the app can track, the more variety you will have. Now:
Some apps offer special kind of workouts, depending on how fit you are and how much time you have. There are for example longer workouts, in case you have more time, and the 5 or 7 minute workouts for a quick everyday exercise, like 7 Minute Workout is focused on. Some apps, like the J&J Official 7 Minute Workout, adjust their level of difficulty, based on how fit you are, after having asked you a few question on your health and reason to work out. Apps like FitStar, Nike+Training Club and Sworkit have customizable fitness programmes, with various types of workouts for different goals and time spans, as well as workouts without equipment. The Couch to 5K offers, for example, an 8 weeks program, with three workouts per week to boost your fitness.
If heart rate is important to you, or you have a fitness tracker that can monitor your heart rate, an app that accesses and shows you the information, might be interesting for you. One app that is focused on this feauture is the Wahoo Fitness App, that monitors distance, time, pace, tracks runs, cycling, and other workouts. If you want to keep track of your daily improvements, an exercise diary, where your exercises and results are saved in the app, can be helpful (StrongLifts 5x5, MapMyFitness)
Workout and music
If you are looking for something that can give you a little motivation boost every time you workout, the workout music feature might be interesting for you. There are fitness apps that allow you to play your own music while working out, like Runtastic Pro, Accupedo Pedometer and the Nike+Running and there are music apps with a fitness feature, helping you find your beat within the workout. For instance, the app Motion Traxx and RockMyRun can find and play you music that has the same beat or fits perfectly to your workout and RockmyRun can even adjust the speed of a song’s beat to your cadence level.
Another way of motivation can also be a personal trainer or a coaching feature. Some apps have a coach or training plans that tell you, for example, how far you are in your workout (Endomondo) or show you the exercises you have to repeat (Daily Yoga, Sworkit, Blogilates). These features are not enough to motivate you? Then check out the social features below for more innovative and motivating fitness apps.
1.2 Fitness apps with health monitoring features
Fitness apps with health monitoring features count your calories, track your weight and track your sleep. Some even have a food diary that helps you keeping track of your diet.
Apps that count calories you have eaten and are able to count the calories you burned, can exactly tell you how much you need to exercise to burn the calories you consumed. Especially if you want to lose weight, this is an ideal feature. One app that offers this is, for example, the iOS MyFitnessPal calorie counter app, which is according to an Application Resource Center report, the best rated nutrition app in the U.S. It is also compatible with a lot of fitness trackers, which makes the tracking easier. The Fitbit app also tracks your weight and calories, as well as data, like your blood pressure and glucose levels. Other apps that focus on eating habits, food, calorie count and losing weight are Lifesum, DietBet and Noom Coach, that feature challenges to lose weight, reminders and a stoplight technique which is used by Noom coach.
An important feature of health and fitness apps is the sleep tracking, whether because of sleeping problems, or simply, for getting to know your sleep better. According to scientist the best sleep trackers have to be in a hardware form, so that they are in contact with the body and even better, with the skin. In addition to a wristband or under-the-sheet sensor, you need an app for tracking and showing you your sleeping data. Good sleep tracking apps monitor the time it takes you to fall asleep, awakenings, snoring and the resting heart rate, often detected by movements caused by your heartbeat and respiration. The UP by Jawbone shows you the time needed to fall asleep, awakenings and light and deep sleep phases. The Withings Health Mate, which gets data from the Withings Pulse armband or the company’s Aura Sleep System, keeps track of heart rate and breathing cycles and shows you, what wakes you up and allows you to compare the different nights of sleep. It also contains a feature that can wake you up, when you are in your light sleep.
1.3 Apps for women - period tracking apps
There is also a special kind of apps that are just for women, keeping track of a woman's health and period. This can be a very useful tool if you are for example trying to have a baby or if you decided to have a natural kind of contraception. The best rated app in this field is the Period Calendar/Tracker by Abishkking, that is an iOS app. Other Apps are Glow and Clue, which, additional to periods patterns, monitor rate sex, birth control pills, pain, moods, ovulation, fertility and cervical fluid.
You are rarely motivated to go out and do sports? Don’t worry, because there are some apps with innovative ideas, which motivate you to stay fit, like the Charity Miles app (android & iOS), where money is donated for charity for every mile you run, cycle or walk, where a simple workout will make you feel good. Or the app “Zombies, run”, where you have to carry out a mission, save lives, collect materials for your camp and run for your life.
Competitive apps like Strava could also be a fun motivation, since you can compete with your friends, who are using the app, in sports like cycling and running. The app would calculate the data and tell everyone who the winner is.
Other apps with a social network integration is the Nike+Training Club app, where you can share your capabilities to compare your progress with other users and the Endomondo app, where you can challenge your friends.
Endomondo and Pact, for example, are also apps, that have a live tracking feature.
With this feature you can have your cycling and running tracked live and with a sensor, that transmits data, such as ANT+, Bluetooth, or Bluetooth Smart, you can share your workout progress live and for example allow your friends to see where you are on your running route. Other apps with live tracking are the Runkeeper, the MapMyFitness app and the Garmin Fit app, which tracks live the position and Power, Cadence, Heart Rate and Speed.