I have recently noticed that some of my friends are posting maps of their run and walk routes on Facebook, courtesy of some fitness app. Yes, fitness apps—for smartphone or an iPod—are increasingly popular. Have you noticed that nobody seems to use iPods for listening to music since Spotify took over the world, so all the iPod owners might as well use the Fitness app facility! I note that my iPod Nano has a button for fitness, but I’m bucking the trend and still listening to music.
If you’re ever involved in an office chat about fitness apps, you’ll probably be aware that many users seem to have their favourites. I work with a keen cyclist who shares his weekend ‘up hill and down dale’ adventures with us all, backed up by the results from the cycling app he uses. I can see the attraction and for all of us embarking on a regime to either improve our cardio fitness, our stamina and muscle strength, or reduce weight, these apps can provide the inspiration and encouragement of a personal trainer, at a fraction of the cost! Most of them are free for both Android and iOS users. So, here is my top 5 selection of fitness apps for 2015.
1. From Couch to 5K (free)
This free NHS app claims to turn any couch potato into a 5K runner in a nine-week period. According to the reviews it is “easy to follow and easy to stick to” and it only requires three 20-30 minute training sessions per week, on alternate days so that you have rest days. You start with 60 seconds of jogging alternating with 90 seconds of walking for the first week, then you gradually increase the jogging periods, until at last you’re running 5K. You can get it here. By the way, the young chap who devised it, made it for his 50-something mum who was a couch potato.
2. Strava (free or premium £3.99)
Are you the kind of person who is more likely to persevere if you’re part of a group? Then Strava could be perfect for you as it connects cyclists and runners from all around the globe. You’ll be able to compare notes with others, and compete with them as well. The app tracks where you are through your phone’s GPS, so that you can compare your performance with that of other people who have completed the same route. It measures distance, speed and elevation as well, but most people get this app because they want to be part of a community. You can get your Strava here.
3. Fitocracy (free)
Fitocracy is an app for those of us who need motivation and encouragement in a variety of forms. It is somewhat similar to Strava, but it does use more social and gaming elements to keep you going. It offers the option to connect with people who are using the same fitness training method as you, whether that is running or yoga, so it’s scope is a bit broader than Strava, which is more focused on running and cycling. It is also personalised to your training regime and you are awarded points when you complete certain goals. You can even hire a personal trainer via the app for one-to-one coaching. You can download Fitocracy here.
4. FitBit (free)
This app takes a more holistic approach to your fitness. It doesn’t just track your physical activities, it also counts your calories, measures your weight and monitors your sleeping habits. Although the app is free for both Android and iOS users, you do need to buy a FitBit tracker. This is a device you wear and looks rather like a thick rubber wristband with a mini-computer in it. These are available in a variety of styles for the official FitBit website, where you can also download the app.
5. MyFitnessPal (free)
No list of fitness apps would be complete without a mention of MyFitnessPal products. This company’s highly respected app has been widely reviewed online and in the press. It’s effectiveness lies in the fact that you keep a weight loss journal, while the app helps you to count calories and supplies you with recipes for healthy food. It’s simple and its fans claim that the act of keeping track of your calorie intake really does keep your weight loss regime on track. You can get MyFitnessPal information here.
Given that most of these are freely available, it would be a shame not to give them a try. I’m leaning towards MyFitnessPal to help monitor my diet, and I may even get around to using From Couch to 5K; as many people say, “never say never!”