The best fitness apps can keep track of your daily activities; monitor your heart rate, sleep habits, and calorie intake; set up challenges with friends; plan workouts; and keep you moving and motivatedmore
The best fitness apps can keep track of your daily activities; monitor your heart rate, sleep habits, and calorie intake; set up challenges with friends; plan workouts; and keep you moving and motivated to meet your health and fitness goals. Some can help with weight loss by letting you keep food diaries.
On the device side, activity trackers range from the slender Fitbit Alpha to the substantial Garmin Forerunner, which on smaller wrists can look like you've attached a tiny dish to your forearm. Look for a tracker that includes a watch, activity monitor, and heart-rate sensor and can sync with your computer via Bluetooth or a USB cable. If you want to accurately track the distance you walk, run, or bike, look for one with built-in GPS.
The best fitness apps sync with your tracker to display your activities. You can view steps, miles traveled, heart rate, hours slept (if you wear your tracker to bed), and calories burned, for example, over a selected period of time, including daily, weekly, or monthly. Most let you set goals, challenge your friends, view workout and exercise tips and advice, and customize your activities.
Most fitness apps also let you set weight-loss and dietary goals and then help you track your progress. If you are looking to track what you eat, look for ones that let you easily keep a food journal or diary.
The Fitbit app, for example, includes a database of food you can find in restaurants and grocery stores with detailed nutritional information. You can search the database for a specific food item or use the app's barcode scanner if you have the item in front of you. You can search for generic items (such as blueberries) and assemble your own custom recipes so you can add them to your food diary with one tap. The Fitbit app can pull data from your Fitbit tracking device to give you an up-to-the-minute readout of your daily progress.
The Weight Watchers app also lets you easily track your food intake. Worst case, you enter an estimate each day of how many calories you've expended.
Activity trackers range from those intended for elite athletes looking to accurately track distance and pace per mile to those designed for someone looking to begin an excerise program to lose weight.
You have to dig around a bit in this health app to find the workout tracker (tap the + on the home screen and then tap Exercise), but once you find it, you can browse through a long list of exercises -- from automobile repair to walking using crutches -- or configure your own custom exercise routine, based on duration and calories burned. The app works with a broad selection of fitness bands and trackers and apps to sync steps, calories, and other fitness data.
With the 30 Day Fitness Challenge app, you can create a month-long exercise schedule, based on how often you want to exercise and which body parts you want to focus on. The app's workout plans range from easy to hard, with clear instructions for how to perform each activity. The app offers a bit of an explanation for the thinking about the 30-day workout strategy and can sync data from Google Fit or Apple Health, depending on which platform you're on.
Open the Fitbit app, and you're presented with a dashboard of the health and fitness activities your Fitbit device is tracking. You can view steps, miles covered, an estimate of calories burned, minutes you've been active, heart rate, and more. If you are looking for exercise help, tap the Guidance tab to get workout advice based on your weight and activities.
Track your runs and bike rides with Strava. You can either pull data from a GPS tracking device like a Garmin fitness watch or use the GPS in your phone. With a phone, as you start your ride or run, tap the record button in the app. Strava will track your workout and display real-time stats. When you're done, save your activity to review how you did. While Strava does a great job tracking and breaking down your workouts, perhaps the coolest thing is the ability to follow friends, join clubs, share workouts, and just generally be social.
With the Endomondo exercise app, select your workout and set your targets, and the app will spur you on to meet your goals. And afterward, you can review the activity details. But lots of workout apps do that. Endomondo, from Under Armour, stands out by being social, letting you connect with friends to share your activities, challenge them, and cheer them on.
Another app from Under Armour, Map My Run offers more than 70 million searchable routes. And if you are feeling adventurous, you can create your own. The app syncs with the Map My Run site, to make it easy to view training logs on your phone or in your browser.
One more app for tracking your runs, jogs, and walks, Runtastic lets you use your device's GPS to map your activities. A live map lets your friends monitor your run in real time, which may or may not be a bit creepy, and you can hook into your music library to play songs during your exercise. You can set an annual running goal, track the mileage on your shoes, view personal records, and create running groups with leaderboards.
The Lose It app excels as a weight-loss and calorie-counter app. With Lose It, you can keep a diary of what you eat each day, set a food budget, and track your weight. The app comes with a library of food items, a barcode scanner for entering items not in the library, and a recipe builder that lets you assemble your own creations. But you can easily connect Lose It to a fitness watch to automatically add your activities -- and calories burned -- to your daily total.