Use Your Phone to Get Fit: 5 Great Fitness Apps

October 20, 2014
Use Your Phone to Get Fit
iStockFitness apps track workout statistics such as nutrition, fitness, and mileage.

With new Apple watches and whiz-bang wearable devices that monitor your daily activity, you could spend hundreds on devices and programs to stay fit. Or you could just reach for your smartphone—all at once it can be your personal trainer, calorie counter, and route log, as long as you download the right apps. These five easy-to-use fitness apps put you through strength and cardio workouts, let you log exercise of any type, help you eat healthier, and can even introduce you to new hikes at no cost for basic functions.

Perfect for: Those who want a quick workout anywhere, anytime.
Pick the type of exercise you want—such as strength, cardio, or yoga. Then choose an area of focus (for example, full-body or core strength) and how much time you have to exercise. Hit “start,” and Sworkit churns out a random circuit of exercises, all using body weight resistance, so no gear needed. Each move has a demonstration video for proper form and an audio cue so you know what’s coming next. After 30 seconds, you switch to the next exercise until your time’s up. The random order helps keep you out of a rut, but you can also customize a workout to hit only the moves you want.
Upgrade option: For $3.99, the Pro version of the app lets you adjust the 30-second exercise interval, save multiple custom workouts, and track your workout history.

Perfect for: Finding popular hikes in new places.
Because MapMyHike is from the MapMyFitness family of apps, it has full functionality to record any type of workout and log food for calorie counting, making it a good general fitness app. It also lets you map a route online, measuring distance and elevation, and send that route to your phone so you can track your progress and make sure you’re still on route. Workouts are sharable, so on the Routes screen when you hit “Nearby,” you can see where others who have been in the area have gone before you.
Upgrade option: The MVP plan ($5.99/month or $29.99/year) includes an ad-free environment, unlimited map printing, custom goal setting, and training plans for many activities.

Perfect for: Helping you realize how much you sit around.
So you worked out for 45 minutes, but what about the rest of your day? The Moves app is a sort of ultra-smart pedometer that automatically records your daily walking, running, and biking movement to give you a daily map of where you went, duration of movement, and estimate of calories burned. (You can add in gym workouts and other activities, and car time records as “transit.”) Because it’s on all the time, it does use up battery power, but it also gives a sobering look at just how much time most of us spend sitting and driving each day.
Upgrade option: None; Moves is always free.

Perfect for: Making your workouts a social media experience.
Strava lets you categorize your workout as belonging to one of some 30 different activities, including hiking, cross-country skiing, and windsurfing. Hit the timer button to begin, and the app records your distance, route, and time, uploading to your Strava profile, which you can share with others on Strava and post to other social media like Facebook. You can sync the app with Instagram, so photos you take during your recorded segment will be featured on your route map. There’s also an auto-pause feature so your workout clock moves only when you do. Users can view or follow one another’s routes, give comments or “kudos” for a workout well done, and compete to make a segment’s leaderboard of fastest times.
Upgrade option: Premium ($6/month or $59/year) features include custom heart rate training, a goal setting tool, and power meter interface for cyclists.

Perfect for: Runners, or hikers who want mid-trip encouragement.
A fairly standard GPS tracking app, RunKeeper has an easy-to-use log that lets you track your miles and progress over time, and share it all with friends. The app has a Goal Coach that sug.gests workouts and training plans based on your level, and you can sync a music playlist with your workouts. Perhaps its best feature is the motivating mid-trip audio update feature, in which a simulated female voice tells you how you are doing on distance, time, and pace.
Upgrade option: Premium features ($9.99/month or $39.99/year) include a wealth of training plans and goal tracking.


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Loren Mooney

AMC Outdoors, the magazine of the Appalachian Mountain Club, inspires readers to get outside and get engaged. Learn more.