Get Fit and Stay Fit – The Best Health and Fitness Apps for iOS
The health and fitness section of the App Store is one of the busiest areas of the shop, featuring thousands of apps that promise to get you healthier and fitter. It’s also fair to say that the health and fitness section of the App Store has the widest range in quality of those apps outside the wretched ‘Entertainment’ section. With so many fitness apps vying for your dollar-spend and with so much blatant copying going on, it’s difficult to separate the good from the bad, the flab from the fit and the snake oil from the Omega 3.
In this feature we’re looking at a total fitness suite, a selection of apps that will cover your entire fitness regime, from exercise tracking to health monitoring and food consumption. With summer on its way in the northern hemisphere, why not spend a couple of bucks, bust out those trainers and get trim for the warm season.
Before you Begin
If you haven’t exercised recently then it might be an idea to get a better understanding of your fitness levels and general state of health before you run that first marathon. It goes without saying that none of these apps are designed to replace a doctor or fitness expert, but they are good additions to those resources.
Instant Heart Rate
$0.99 – Azumio
Finding out what your resting heart rate is, is a good first step in assessing where to begin. This terrific application uses the iPhone camera and LED light to read your pulse by shining a light through your finger and monitoring changes in shade. It sounds like one of those too-good-to-be-true gimmicks, but it really works.
There are a couple of apps like this one in the App Store now, but this is the original and best. It will record your heart rate and store all the readings for you to track improvements and also offers basic advice on heart rate levels. This is a great app to use in conjunction with a general fitness diary app so you’ve got another way of tracking improvements over time.
Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker
$free – MyFitnessPal
We’ve all had it banged into our heads for years now – any fitness or weight loss plan has to include a dietary component in it. So before you hit the gym, consider what you’re filling your stomach with and start tracking the calories you’re putting into your body. This amazing app includes a food database of over a million items and enables you to track your calories, fat, protein, carbs, sugar, fiber and cholesterol.
It enables you to set dietary goals that you can then track through the app as you enter all the food/drink you consume. You can also view reports on how your new fitness regime is tracking and, if you want, connect with friends to share your triumphs and your set-backs.
See also: Calorie Counter Pro ($4.49).
$0.99 – Sharkweed
Nothing is better motivation than clear evidence of improvements. And while you can watch the pounds disappearing from your waistline in your fitness diary, nothing beats photographic proof. This neat little app enables you to photograph your body on a regular basis for that full before and after comparison. It even has a coverflow style mode where you can flick through all your photos to see the changes.
Hit the Gym
At some of the posher gyms you’ll be given your own RFID key to wave in front of the various pieces of equipment which track your progress during your workout. If you don’t have access to that though and particularly if you’re working out at home then apps that offer workout tips, safety information, full workout sessions and tracking capabilitis are very useful.
$0.99 – Sky Health
There are a couple of apps like this on the store, but Fitness Buddy’s the best designed, most comprehensive and most reasonably priced. It includes over 1700 exercises in its database andover 1,000 videos that demonstrate the exercises. It includes information on all your different muscle groups and includes 75 workouts that can target different areas.
Fitness Buddy can also track your progress over the weeks and display your efforts in a graph or table form – should you wish you can even export your workout logs in CVS/HTML format. As if that wasn’t enough, the app enables you to add your own custom exercises.
See also: iFitness (delisted) – there’s another app in the store by the same name, but it’s not the awesome workout/exercise database app that you’ll find recommended all over the place.
$2.99 – SlickerThanMost
It’s fair to say that the big database apps like Fitness Buddy wouldn’t win any beauty contests for their interfaces. Pushing Weight however is an app that combines good lucks with supreme functionality. It’s a far more focused app, centred on simple weight based workouts and repetitions, but built around a very stylish calendar based design.
Nike Training Club
$free – Nike
While this app is pitched at women, its list of workouts and terrific interface mean that it’s just as useful for blokes. It includes 25 excellent workouts, from beginner drills through to hardcore body slams, each of which has been compiled by a famous fitness expert. In addition the app includes excellent voice overs that run over the top of the music you’ve chosen to work out to. Recommended – for men or women.
$free – FitNow Inc
As far as I can see this particular app’s only available in the US App Store, which is a bit of a shame, because it’s a really well designed app. Lose It features a streamlined interface and a large database of foods and drinks that enable you to track and plan for weight loss by calorie counting.
$free – Gain Fitness
While the core app here is free, that onlygets you the ‘training foundation’ pack, but it does comprise 300+ exercises so let’s not be churlish about it. Further add-on packs are $2.99 and target core, abs, chest, biceps etc – so you can upgrade as required. This is a sensational app, beautifully designed and a perfect virtual trainer, guiding you through all your reps and tracking your progress.
Hit the Road
The iPod has been synonymous with running for some time of course and long before the iPhone added GPS functionality to the winning formula, Nike had a pedometer based iPod add-on for measuring running distances. The current iPhones are perfect jogging or cycling companions, combining advanced mapping with full GPS capabilites to monitor speed, distance, acceleration etc.
$4.49 – Mothership Software
There are hundreds of GPS based run/bike trackers in the App Store so you have to bring something new to the party if you want to make an impression. Kinetic does this by combining a killer interface with excellent functionality and a fully configurable display design.
Kinetic can be used to track any distance based exercise such as jogging or cycling, but also comes with training plans designed by a former London marathon champ that can get couch potatos up and running. It’s a beautifully designed app that even includes an auto-pause for urban joggers who’ve fallen foul of a red traffic light and Runkeeper functionality.
See also: Runkeeper – this used to be the go-to app for GPS but has been suffering from buggy releases lately.
Get Running (Couch to 5K)
$2.99 – Benjohn Barnes
The couch-to is another one of those niche sub-sections of fitness apps, but as in most cases the originals are usually the best. Get Running is a beautifully designed app that takes you slowly from complete novice to 5k runner in about 10 weeks. It has an awesome interface and great progress and encouragement prompts that keep you on track.
See also: Nike+ GPS ($1.99) Beautifully designed run tracker with a light feature-set focused on recording your workouts.
$8.49 – Six to Start
Nobody could accuse this app of not innovating – it simulates you getting hunted by flesh-hungry zombies! The app is comprised of a series of missions that you play through by running – as the zombies get closer, you have to step up your speed to out-pace them. They probably ought to advertise this during the Walking Dead ad breaks.
On Your Bike
While the GPS apps mentioned above are easily capable of tracking your bike rides, there are also some specialised cycling apps out there that deserve a mention.
Cyclemeter GPS Bike Computer for Road Cycling and Mountain Biking
$2.99 – Abvio Inc
Not the snappiest name ever, but this is certainly the best cycling app you can buy. Cyclemeter enables you to plan, track, visualise, share and export your bike rides using an awesome interface. Amongst the best features are the ability to race against yourself or other people who’ve done the same route and a terrific training feature that’ll take you through punishing interval sessions complete with great sounding voice-over prompts.
iBiker – Bike Computer GPS
$free/$1.99 premium – iTMP Technology
With iBiker you can track your workouts using a swipe-screen display, map your routes or view them in real-time on rides, get voice feedback on distances travelled and track other data such as blood pressue, weight and sleep. With the premium version it can also be hooked up to an ANT+ fitness sensor to track heart rate, calory burn etc in real time.
$2.99 – Vagabond
Not sure why, but these cycling apps are amongst the best designed fitness apps in the whole store. I really like the sleek interface of this one which includes big clear read-outs over the top of live map displays. It features ghost-races (race yourself), full sharing capabilities and a sympathetic battery facility.
After the Burn
So you’ve done your duty, you’ve pounded the pavements and shed a few pounds, now it’s time to wind down. These apps take the replace of those lovely moments at the end of aerobics classes when you stretch your body to chillout music.
$0.99 – Orange Orb
This app is based around the concept of charkras (energy centres) – an ancient meditative methodology. The app leads you through preperation, breathing and relaxation and deep relaxation of carious kinds. Even if you don’t buy into the hokey philosophy behind the app, it’s still just an awesome way to chill out, calm down and get focused.
The Mindfulness App
$1.99 – MindApps
Another mediation app, but this time without any chakra mumbo-jumbo. To use the app you simply set the time limit, choose guided or unguided (the latter uses bells to signal timings) and then follow the prompts to get fully relaxed.