Health and fitness apps have gained a ton of popularity over the past few years and this trend isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. While empirical research on health app intervention is still pretty limited, recent studies show that these smartphone apps do in fact help facilitate behavioral change in people who use them. Improved diet, increased exercise, and decreased sedentary behavior can be attributed to the use of health and fitness apps by children and adults. In this article, I’ll tell you what features to look for in a fitness app and tell you about a few of the three best fitness apps to get you started on or fitness journey.
What makes an app worth downloading?
Despite the limited research currently available, health experts are beginning to look into which app features make up an effective health and fitness app. Basically, consumers value apps that are intuitive and easy to use. What about features?
The best fitness apps offer the following:
- Information and advice – Why do people choose a low carb diet for weight loss?
- Allow users to self-report – log miles ran, meals eaten, steps taken, etc.
- Provide analytics – How many calories did you take in this week compared to last week?
- Give rewards – Unlock the next workout! Receive a badge for completing a 5K!
- Social support – Stalk others to see their progress or post your own!
- Games – Run away from the Zombies!
Which apps should I get?
First of all, the best fitness apps for you will depend on your goals and priorities, so take those into consideration when choosing an app. For example, are you looking to decrease your calorie intake? Improve your 5K run time? Both? This brings me to my next point: not every app does everything. You may have to download a few different ones and use them simultaneously to track your progress to the fullest extent. But for now let’s consider the three most important components of fitness: diet, exercise, and rest (this third one is gravely underrated). Here are three of the best fitness apps everyone should have:
Currently Rated No. 1 on iTunes’ Health and Fitness apps, this one does A TON! I could write an entire separate post about MyFitnessPal. If you’re going to start with any app, this is an absolute staple of any fitness-enthusiast’s app inventory. With it’s enormous database of foods and the ability to scan barcodes, counting calories is super easy and intuitive. You can also set your goals and the app will tell you what you need eat in order to get there. For example, you can track your macronutrients to ensure that you’re getting enough protein and not too many carbs. MyFitnessPal is compatible with a bunch of other high quality apps, such as the Apple Healthkit and the FitBit Tracker App. The app does have premium features which are worth looking into. There is even a new feature which uses your location to tell you where the nearest fitness classes are!
I personally use to JEFit track my weight lifting and it’s just as useful for tracking cardio. Like MyFitnessPal, this one is jam-packed with features that help you track your progress. You can create personalized workout routines, record your workouts, and view analytics to see what you need to improve (or keep doing correctly). There are many things I love about this app. First of all, it has a huge database of effective exercises to choose from. No need to manually type in each exercise. Each time I return to an exercise, the exercise log will show much I lifted and for how many repetitions from the previous session. The exercise log even accounts for rest time! While the app is free, you can access a lot more content and analytics by purchasing one of their Elite plans. This one is a must-have!
It’s common knowledge that you don’t get more fit in the gym, you get more fit while you recover. Most of this recovery takes place while you sleep. How can you ensure that you’re getting a good night’s rest? How can you avoid feeling groggy when you wake up? Sleep Cycle has you covered. It tracks your sleep patterns and wakes you up out of a light sleep. No more abrasive and obnoxious cell phone alarms. Sleep Cycle plays a soothing tune that slowly increases in volume to make your waking experience less…alarming (sorry not sorry about the pun). You can even personalize your experience by checking off factors that may affect your sleep before setting your alarm. Over time sleep cycle will tell you which of these factors is either positively or negatively affecting your sleep (going to bed drunk negatively affects my sleep by 7%). Finally, the app will tell you how long you slept each night so that you know if you need to get to bed earlier. You won’t make progress without getting rest, so do yourself a favor and get this app.