If you’ve got a smartphone in your pocket or your bag, you’re likely aware of how useful it can be. It’s not just a device for texting or calling – you can use it to record voice notes, play games, write to-do lists and more, all thanks to apps. But these days, app designer attention is turning from flashy puzzle games to something a little more health-focused: fitness trackers. With so many options to choose from, anyone with access to apps can quickly and easily begin tracking their physical progress – not to mention the fact that having fitness tracker apps installed means you can save money by not having to purchase wearable tech.
Now for the big question: which app-based fitness tracker program do you choose? Depending on your device, there may already be fitness monitoring apps installed (for example, the current iPhone operating system has the Health Kit app as a default program, and Android has Google Fit). But if you’re just beginning your cardio-tracking journey, you’re going to want to start by choosing some of the best apps.
Take a look at our picks for the top app-based fitness trackers out there:
MapMyFitness scores with numerous functions including, as the name would indicate, route mapping for runs (they’ve got a database of over 70 million potential routes, plus you can create your own), activity tracking including workouts, and even the ability to log your food intake – especially handy if you’re keeping an eye on your calories as well as your daily steps. Also, you’ve now got the option to share your progress with your social networks – the official site urges you to “get extra encouragement, cheer on your buddies or start a little friendly competition.” If you’re looking for an app-based fitness tracker that works overtime, MapMyFitness is the one for you.
When it comes to the newly-formed social aspect that’s a big part of fitness tracking, the Strava family of apps does it best. “What sets Strava apart from the rest of the options out there is the community,” says an article at Lifehacker. “With Strava, you can set up a network of friends and challenge each of them to races. You'll also find a ton of different public challenges with various routes, inclines, and more.” And it’s not just a great app for runners – Strava also has an app specifically for cyclists who want to track their progress, and also enjoy that social factor. According to Greatist, “Strava is the perfect app for those bike enthusiasts. It allows you to easily track rides by time, distance, and speed. But the best feature is Strava’s challenges that connects you with a community of cyclers who compete for things like climbing the highest or snapping the best photos mid-ride.”
Do you prefer to get physical with a trainer’s encouragement? The Endomondo app has you covered with its own virtual trainer, the eponymous Endo who, according to Greatist, “chimes in to tell you if you’re about to set a personal record, or if you should pick up the pace.” Even if you’d rather not workout on command, Endomondo has the useful feature of measuring your fitness before you begin, which allows it to come up with a custom exercise plan. Outside of the gym, the app also tracks your fitness using GPS – plus you can “send pep talks and motivational notes to friends,” says the article at Lifehacker. Whether you want a physical trainer in your pocket, a fitness plan, or a simple app that can track your movements throughout the day, Endomondo is a great choice.
Surprise – you don’t need a wearable Fitbit wristband to track your physical movement. “Without a tracker, the Fitbit app can count your steps (provided your carry your phone all day long), help you track the calories you consume, log your weight, and record other health information, such as blood pressure and glucose levels,” says PC Mag. If you do happen to own a Fitbit, you can get even more out of the app by syncing the wearable device for instant activity logging – but even if you simply install the app on your Android, Apple, or Windows device, you can get a good picture of your physical activity throughout the day. Fitbit is constantly growing and evolving as a fitness tracker, so it may be worth getting on the bandwagon (or at least running alongside it) now.
It may have the word “run” in its name, but the Runkeeper app does so much more than track your jog around the block. “From the basics like distance, time, and pace to the more high-tech data like altitude and calories burned, there’s no more guessing the length of that loop around the neighborhood, or the time it took to climb that last hill on the bike,” says a tech spotlight article on Greatist. “Runkeeper provides the route on a map, which can be uploaded to a computer for more analysis later on.” Want to work out to your own customized playlist? Runkeeper allows you to do that, too. If you’re looking to seriously up your app tracking game, Runkeeper Pro and Runkeeper Elite are also available (the latter for an additional fee).
For those with newer iPods, you’ll find Nike+ as an included app that can automatically count your steps, or track your runs to a specific playlist. There’s nothing better than the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you check out how many steps you’ve logged per week or month, or even in a year. If you want to further integrate Nike+ across more devices, you’ve got options: Nike+Move has “a social element to it that pits you against your friends to chalk up the most activity,” says Lifehacker, and the Nike+Running app specifically focuses on your running routes and progress. For those more inclined to track their gym progress, there’s Nike+Training Club, which features over 100 free workouts with the option to share your results with social media.
If keeping your calories under control is a higher priority than hitting the gym, you can get the best of both worlds with MyFitnessPal. The app puts a spotlight on tracking what you eat and drink throughout the day, and has an extensive library of food that can be used to calculate the total caloric load of your meals. However, it also serves as a fitness tracker, albeit one with a focus on burning off those calories that you’ve logged. “Users can also record exercises, done during the day, and the app will record the number of calories burned. Wondering if your run worked off that breakfast burrito? MyFinessPal will let you know,” says Greatist. MyFitnessPal may be a bare bones app, but it’s free to download and does double duty as a food log and exercise tracker.
If you’ve got a smartphone in hand and you’re looking for ways to up your physical activity, give one of the above fitness-tracking apps a try – you don’t need to strap on a costly wearable wristband, and in many cases you only have to tap a few buttons to start tracking your movements. It could be the exercise jumpstart you need to try something new and different.
Are you using any apps to record your fitness? Which ones?