The lure of getting fit with an at-home exercise program almost sounds too good to be true, but with the help of fitness apps, it’s a definite possibility. Plus, you get all the benefits that come with exercise, including weight management, stronger muscles and improved mental health.
Benefits of Fitness Apps
If you didn’t try a fitness app during the COVID pandemic, it’s not too late to do so. There are many advantages to trying a fitness app:
— You have hundreds, even thousands of exercise classes at your fingertips at any time, says personal trainer and group fitness instructor Tami Smith, who is the owner of Fit Healthy Momma in St. Augustine, Florida. That makes fitting in a workout more convenient than ever.
— You can use apps to track your progress. In fact, many apps will award digital medals or have other giveaways to motivate you to keep using them, says fitness app user Dominique Vonador, a board-certified acupuncture physician, founder and owner of Acupuncture and Herbal Solutions in Bradenton, Florida.
— Apps make working out more accessible. “When creating a new fitness routine, it’s important to lower the barriers of entry and keep things as simple as possible. Fitness apps are so effective because they do just that,” says Sergio Pedemonte, personal trainer and CEO of Your House Fitness in Toronto.
In addition to fitness apps, you can conveniently squeeze in home workouts with online videos and other options.
Choosing the Right Fitness App for You
With so many fitness apps available, how can you choose the right one for you? There are a few things you should keep in mind:
— Cost. Some apps are free, but others have a monthly subscription cost. Decide in advance how much you’re willing to pay for an exercise routine app.
— Personal enjoyment. Exercise you enjoy is exercise you’re more likely to continue over time. “The bottom line is, what is it you enjoy doing?” says Toril Hinchman, director of fitness and wellness for Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
— Classes. Do you think you’ll find live classes more motivating? Would you rather have a library of pre-recorded classes? Or, would you like both?
— Class length. A mix of shorter and longer classes can help reach the sweet spot for many users. “When apps only have longer classes, some people feel discouraged and will skip their workout that day because they don’t have time to complete the whole class,” Smith says. She likes apps that include 10- to 15-minute workouts in addition to longer workouts to encourage people to get moving with whatever time they have.
— Community. “Working out from home can feel isolating and boring, but so many apps have lively communities that can keep things feeling exciting,” Smith says. The community via these apps is often similar to that on social media sites, so you can share goals and accomplishments and encourage each other. Some apps also have live group fitness classes so you can feel a sense of community even if you’re not sharing the same sweaty space with others.
— Equipment. Does the app require any specific equipment? You’ll want to know that in advance before investing in the app.
— Physical health. Some apps offer modified versions of workouts; others can be more advanced, Vonador says. If you have a specific injury or physical limitation, you may want to check whether the app has workouts with guided modifications for you. Of course, you should always check with your health care provider if you’re not sure about your ability to exercise with a specific injury or physical limitation.
— Tracking. Do you want an app that allows you to track exercise time, weights used, workouts completed or other information? Tracking your progress is often motivating.
8 Best Fitness Apps
Here are eight of the best fitness apps around as recommended by fitness experts and via app stores. However, there are so many fitness apps available, it’s worth seeing what else is out there to find your best fitness fit. The apps featured here are:
— Obé Fitness.
— Nike Training Club.
— Home Workout — No Equipment.
Cost: $12.99/month, with a free trial available.
Although Peloton is famously associated with the home-workout bike of the same name, the workouts on the app don’t all require you to have the bike or other equipment. Boxing, running, yoga and many more types of fitness workouts are available on the Peloton app.
Smith praises the workout variety and “lovable” instructors. However, she cautions that users may feel pressured to buy the Peloton branded bike, treadmill or rowing machine to take full advantage of the workouts.
Cost: $24.99/month, with a free trial available.
Obé Fitness offers an array of live and on-demand classes, including tailored workouts for prenatal fitness, dance and yoga sculpt. There also are training programs and, for those with an annual membership, access to food and nutrition classes. You can track your progress and feel a sense of community with the live classes.
Not everyone may want to pay the app’s monthly fee. However, Obé costs less with an annual membership, and you can often find discount codes online to keep down the cost.
Nike Training Club
You don’t need to wear a pair of Nikes to train on the company’s app. This free app combines fitness, core/strength exercises and yoga workouts with healthy recipes to further support your goals. The app also has workouts that are under 20 minutes, so you can fit in a workout even if you’re pressed for time. Some of the workouts are led by celebrity athletes.
The app doesn’t have a way to track your progress, so you’ll have to do that on your own.
Cost: $59/year, free trial available.
Ready to jump some rope? Then check out Crossrope, which features short, medium and long cardio and body weight jump-rope workouts. The app also provides words of encouragement at varying times when you use the app, including after a workout. One feature Vonador likes is being able to listen to her own music while using the app.
Crossrope also has various jump-ropes for sale, but you could also use one of your own.
Cost: free, $7.99/month for additional features.
Strava, a running and cycling app, allows users to find new destinations to explore during workouts or revisit the routes they’ve used before. Strava can connect with fitness watches to track progress, heart rate and other information. It can also track progress with more than 30 sports activities, not just running and cycling. If you’re feeling competitive, you can take part in friendly competitions with other users. Strava also has workout training plans for running and cycling available for an extra monthly fee. For instance, you can use it to train for a 10K or a half marathon.
Cost: $19.99/month, free trial available.
If strength building is your priority, then Sweat is one of the most popular apps out there for it. Co-founded by Australian personal trainer Kayla Itsines, the app includes a variety of weight-lifting workouts in addition to some high-intensity interval training and Pilates workouts. You’ll need to have the dumbbells or barbells ready to do these strength-based workouts, or use the app at the gym using the equipment there.
Home Workout — No Equipment
Cost: $39.99/year, free trial available.
If you want to build strength but don’t have the time, money or interest in weight-training equipment, then Home Workout — No Equipment is an option worth considering. Instead of using equipment, you’ll complete bodyweight-based exercises to get stronger. Use the app to target specific areas of your body or for a full body workout. The app can also provide tailored recommendations for you based on your age and fitness goals.
Cost: $24/month, free seven-day trial.
Although Glo offers a variety of fitness classes, it’s best known for its yoga options. The app has various types of yoga classes available, including breathwork, kundalini yoga, hatha yoga and even tutorial/educational videos. The app also includes Pilates and meditation classes. Glo might be a good choice if you have an injury or limited mobility and want to avoid tougher workouts.
Users that are looking for workouts beyond floorwork and yoga may want to find another app.
There’s More to Fitness Than Working Out
There’s a lot more to fitness than just working out. Recovery, mindfulness and nutrition also are important, Pedemonte says. Popular apps that touch on these ancillary components of fitness include:
— Calm, which provides guided meditations to help ease anxiety, manage stress and sleep more soundly. Calm also has music tracks for focus, sleep and relaxation.
— MyFitnessPal, a nutrition app that allows you to track what you’re eating and has a large food database along with a scanning feature that makes sure you’re tracking your foods accurately, Pedemonte says. The app can also sync with other health apps you may use, including FitBit and Apple HealthKit.
— Noom, which aims to help you understand your behavior around eating. After taking a short quiz, Noom provides short lessons on psychology and behavioral changes that you can complete within 16 weeks. The app also connects you to a coach who will check in and provide motivational messages.
More Home Workout Options
In addition to fitness apps, there are other ways you can get a good home workout:
— Online workouts available via YouTube, social media and personal trainer websites. The options for online workouts are endless. Explore different workout options that meet your abilities, available time and workout interests. If you work with a personal trainer, they may have in-demand workouts available on their website, says Dani Singer, CEO and founder of Fit2Go Personal Training, based in Baltimore. Personal trainers also may offer virtual classes at specific times.
— Live and on-demand workouts online from your gym. If you belong to a gym but can’t make it there regularly, inquire about their online options. Some gyms now have on-demand or live virtual workouts.
— Virtual reality workouts. A workout via virtual reality? Yes, indeed. It’s another potential option in the quest to stay healthy and be fit. VZfit, Supernatural and FitXR are just some of the programs available for a VR workout.
Tips for Using Apps and Home Workout Programs
To get the most out of home workouts and apps, you’ll want to keep a few pointers in mind:
1. Give an app more than one try. It’s not uncommon to try an app workout and not like it, leading you to think it’s not the app for you, Smith says. Instead of assuming that immediately, give the app and your body a little more time to find out what you really think of it, she advises.
2. Schedule your workouts. Some apps let you schedule live classes in advance within the app. This can be a huge help if you struggle with accountability, Smith says. Another option: Pick out your next workout ahead of time, and put your workout appointment on your calendar.
3. Take advantage of all the app has to offer. Features that allow you to log your workouts, count calories and customize information based on your needs, goals and habits are particularly helpful, Pedemonte says. You’ll get more bang for your buck, so to speak, by using all the app has to offer.
4. Don’t become too reliant on an app, Vonador cautions. Sometimes, there will be technical glitches or updates that make it hard to finish a workout. “There’s nothing wrong with going app-free to just enjoy a peaceful run or an impromptu weight routine,” she says.
5. Stick with an app you enjoy, find challenging and can be consistent with, Hinchman recommends. “Using an app daily, little by little and increasing slowly, can have huge benefits in the long term,” Pedemonte adds.
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Update 11/11/22: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.