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6 Fitness Apps You’ll Actually Use

The right app can be all it takes to bring you to your next level of personal fitness. But just how good are they and how do you find the “right one” in a category with thousands of entries?

Trial and error (while perfectly fine when choosing the right listmaking app) can get exhausting, but don’t worry, I’ve done the legwork for you. I have six apps here that I use every day and the good news is they are all free.

Before we get to the good stuff, I would like to spend just a moment on what you can expect from an app in the Health and Fitness category in general. It’s important to remember that no standalone application running on your phone is going to be 100% accurate. In most cases this is not a problem since typically you’re more concerned with making sure you hit your daily goals than you are with keeping precise count. What these apps lack in precise reporting detail however they more than make up for with their low cost, ease of use and in many cases built-in support groups, facilitated by the app makers themselves.

Ok, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get you started on your new fitness plan!

  1. Argus

    argus-3iOS | Android – For when you want to track absolutely everything. The Argus home screen’s interlocking live tiles update with your steps taken, water consumed, miles cycled, calories burned (based on your height/weight/age), and even the local weather. Offers a Premium plan for tailored workouts and even more reporting options. Connects to Apple Health, and has nicely designed social features to share the experience.

  2. MyFitnessPal

    myfitnesspaliOS | Android – The absolute best for keeping up with calories consumed and burned. The app allows you to set goals (weight gain or weight loss for example) and a time frame for the completion of the goal. “Lose five pounds in five weeks”? MyFitnessPal will automatically calculate your daily caloric intake and even give stern warnings if you are consuming fewer calories than is healthy. Has an awesome database of nutritional content so adding calories consumed is as easy as typing (or scanning!) in what you have eaten (ie, Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Tamales – 360 cal). Connects to MapMyFitness (next in the list) and many available activity tracking devices (ie, fitbit, Jawbone, Misfit, etc) as well as Apple Health. MyFitnessPal also has a very nice online component so you can monitor your progress on a larger screen.

  3. MapMyFitness

    mapmyfitnessiOS | Android – This app is great when you’re ready to change up your fitness routine. It does a nice job of actually tracking your workouts but where it really shines is in its extensive list of workout activities and the accompanying routes. I use the “Road Cycling” option, but you could choose anything from “Dog Walk” to “Hike” to “Cross Country. Then choose new routes to explore based on your chosen workout. Makes it easy and fun to experience new scenery and challenges. Worth noting, this is the most heavily ad-supported app in this list. But if you can live with pop-ups you’ll find some real value here. Paying for the optional MVP Membership removes the ads and unlocks additional content. Connects to MyFitnessPal and many popular activity trackers (ie, fitbit, Jawbone, Misfit, etc).

  4. Strava

    stravaiOS | Android – My personal favorite activity tracking app. The mostly clean, well-organized interface doesn’t overwhelm with information. Once you select an activity, it’s very easy to start and stop recording. Strava features “automatic pausing,” which I personally love since the time I spend waiting at red lights isn’t counted against my average speed. Has a terrific browser-based component online where you can participate in group goals, join a team, and even compete against other people. There are some additional features locked behind a (pretty steep) paywall, but the free version is plenty robust enough to give this one a try. Connects to MyFitnessPal and Apple Health (as well as Instagram just in case you want to post a sweaty post-run selfie).

  5. Moves

    movesiOS | Android – It doesn’t get any simpler than this fantastically easy app. Moves runs in the background and automatically tracks your activity. That’s it. Wonderfully clean interface keeps a running tally of all steps taken, miles biked or run, calories burned and locations visited. There really is no set up required. Keep in mind, this absolute simplicity means there isn’t a way to enter your height, weight and age so the burned calorie count may not be as accurate as some of the other apps.  But for a “close enough” view of your progress,  Moves is perfect.

  6. Google Maps

    googlemapsiOS | Android – Yes that Google Maps. You won’t find it in the Health and Fitness category, but the gold standard in getting from A to B is also a top notch fitness resource. In addition to showing the quickest driving path, Google Maps provides the safest bike and walking/running routes. The next time you’re leaving your house to return a library book or visit a friend you should check Google Maps.  There’s probably a great bicycle route just waiting to be discovered.

Personal fitness is just that, personal. These are all apps that have made my own fitness journey more productive and enjoyable and I’m confident you’ll find benefit in them as well. If nothing else, let these be a starting point for you. Give an app like Strava a chance for a week and see how rewarding it is when you pull your phone out of your armband at the end of a ride and see that you averaged a half-mile faster today than you did yesterday. Let an app like Moves encourage you to take the stairs instead of the elevator just because you want to beat yesterday’s number. I think you’ll find it’s actually a lot of fun, and doesn’t that really make all the difference?

Now stop reading and get out there!

Dan Brown is graphic designer at Griffin Technology. He rode his bike ten miles to work, uphill, both ways.

One response to “6 Fitness Apps You’ll Actually Use”

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