The rise of fitness apps

The rise of fitness apps

It seems like there are now smartphone apps for every aspect of our lives from finance to friends, diary management and entertainment. And it is no less the case in terms of our health and fitness. There are some very clever tools out there which will go a long way to helping you achieve your fitness goals and stay motivated. We’ve picked out some of the best and most interesting.

Running

Via (£1.99)

This app sets running routes for you based a chosen start and finish point, and selected running distance. Step by step audio instructions are given, a bit like SatNav for runners, meaning no more getting lost or referring to maps if you’re running in an unfamiliar location, or want to explore new routes. The app can share progress and journeys with friends, and records calories and average speed.

PROs – Easy to use, innovative and one of a kind.

CONS – May struggle to keep up and give you directions if you’re Usain Bolt.

Zombies, Run! (£2.49)

We had to include two apps in this category, simply because Zombie, Run! is basically brilliant. Described as a ‘running game and audio adventure’, a story of adventure and, well, zombies is brought to you through head phones as you run. There are zombie sounds effects including guttural breathing and groaning, combined with a running commentary, which guides you through an adventure. All you can do to save yourself from the zombies is run! You need to collect supplies (such as ammunition, medicine and batteries) as you run through a series of missions. The app records distance, time and pace and calories burnt on each mission. It really is quite scary, and puts the fun back into running.

PROs – It makes you sweat, gets the adrenalin pumping all whilst playing a game.

CONs – May not be suitable for someone with a nervous disposition!

Nutrition

Smoothie Selector (£0.69)

This app is basically a smoothie recipe directory, where you can find smoothie recipes based on your goals such as muscle building, weight loss, or a health boost. Nutritional information is given for every recipe, you can discover the hidden health benefits of certain foods, and you can upload your own recipes. Recipes include The Hangover Helper, The Mood Maker, and The Brain Builder.

PROs – Great fun! There is a smoothie recipe to make every aspect of your life better.

CONs – Mostly US measurements, most recipes contain a lot of fruit, so watch out for sugar content.

Weight loss

My Fitness Pal (free)

Set yourself weight loss goals, then monitor and record your daily calorie intake to work towards achieving those goals, and exercise activity is factored in to determine your net calorie intake. Enables you to keep track of your progress by entering and storing your weight and body measurements. The nutritional content of food and recipes are detailed and you can also upload your own recipes and it will calculate the nutritional content per serving.

PROs – Comprehensive food database, status updates on progress are very motivating.

CONs – Sometimes you need to measure and weigh the quantities of what you’re eating.

General fitness

Instant Heart Rate (free with paid for extras available)

This simple, but clever app uses your smartphone’s inbuilt camera to measure your heart rate through colour changes that occur. Users simply place their finger tip over the camera and wait 30 seconds or so for the heart rate to be measured. This app makes it very easy to check your pulse during a workout and removes the need for expensive heart monitors. You can upgrade for £1.50 to get the full app which provides unlimited storage, graphs and trends are given based on your measurements, and there are social sharing functions. The full app also includes the ‘StandUp’ test where your heart rate is measured as you move from a sitting to a standing position. Conducted on a daily basis it is a good method for tracking general fitness levels.

PROs – Accurate and fast.

CONs – Difficult to access the camera lens on some smartphones with a cover on.

Other

Absolute Health - Timestrapped workouts (free)

This app is ideal for people who struggle to dedicate as much time as they would like to their fitness. There are instructions given in the form of video descriptions for short workout bursts ranging from 5 minutes to 20 minutes; all using either your own body weight or dumbbells. As well as being useful to squeeze in exercise when you’re short on time, this app can also be used at the gym when you’re not sure what exercises to do – a bit like a personal trainer, but in your pocket (and without the shouting).

PROs – Simple, easy to use, and clear instructions.

CONs – These exercises are not for the faint hearted, and there is a small risk that people new to exercise might not be doing them correctly.

You don’t have to be a complete geek to enjoy some of the excellent smartphone tools available. It’s great that technology can be used for good and these apps encourage people to get active and stay healthy. Have a look at what apps you can find that fit in with your lifestyle, or that are suited to your chosen exercise or sport. There’s so much out there, you’ll be spoilt for choice! 

Comments

Gavin T.
23 April 2013

Gavin T.

Not usre if it counts as an "app" but the website Walkit is brilliant. I use it to plan runs and even my cycles. I also know people that swear by FitBit, but the little gizmos that you need to use are quite pricey.

Lauren H.
4 April 2013

Lauren H.

Zombie Run is a brilliant app. The sound effects are quite terrifying at times but it makes going out for a run a lot of fun! If you're easily scared probably best to use another app...especially if you run at night.

Neil H.
2 April 2013

Neil H.

I love My Fitness Pal, although the food contents is a bit dodgy. Seems to easy to hit the calorie targets to me. Must be more in what I eat than the App thinks. Also a bit 'American' when the lists of food come up.

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