The iPhone CAN make you healthier and more fit. It won’t do so on it’s own, of course, but if you want to get yourself in better shape, the iPhone can help like almost nothing else on the planet.
That said there are way, way too many health and fitness apps vying for your attention in the App Store. And it can be hard to figure out which ones are worth the download because each one represents a big time investment.
What I mean is this: health and fitness apps aren’t like games that you can download and decide whether or not they are any good within a few seconds. It takes awhile to put them through their paces and decide whether or not they are good or bad — and if, sadly, you decide one isn’t what you are looking for, you risk losing some of that “test” data. That’s bad news.
Luckily for you, ever since I picked up a new Apple Watch about a month and a half ago I’ve been on a massive health kick. I’ve been looking for apps that aren’t gimmicks, that don’t cost an arm and a leg (the in-app subscriptions some health and fitness apps want to hook you with will make your jaw drop) and actually help you make progress toward whatever your goal is.
And while you might recognize a few of the apps on this list, don’t stop reading. There’s a reason why they are mentioned here rather than some trendy new health or fitness app — I found them to be truly valuable and better than the alternatives.
Running is one of the most popular forms of exercise on the planet for a few good reasons: it’s incredibly cheap (just buy some shoes and maybe a Spotify subscription for the Running Originals), it can be done anywhere (and anytime) and it’s effective.
There are tons of apps out there that can help you track your running stats. Map My Run, Nike+ Running, RunKeeper, Strava Running and Cycling and on and on. In truth, most of these apps are pretty good and have similar functionality. But after comparing several, I feel like Runtastic is my favorite.
For starters, I need something that works with my Apple Watch and Runtastic does so beautifully.
I also enjoy how easy it is to use; it’s fast to get started and that’s important when I’m up at 5 am and am still tired and bleary eyed.
The history feature is awesome. It’s great to be able to compare past runs — including things like weather, running surfaces and even pictures.
I enjoy the fact that Runtastic can track a wide variety of exercises as well and not just running; walking, swimming, aerobics, football, baseball, basketball, Crossfit, elliptical, etc. You name it, Runtastic just about tracks it.
Of course the whole point of tracking your fitness efforts in the first place is getting access to the data. That’s why I like Runtastic’s statistics screen which gives me a solid, simple monthly overview.
Without getting too lengthy (by doing a full review in a list post), let me also mention the ability to save and challenge past routes, interval training, listening to stories while you run and integration with other Runtastic apps are all compelling features that set this app apart from other running apps.
Finally, Runtastic integrates with a wide variety of apps, including important ones like Apple Health and MyFitnessPal, making it a good team player; nothing bothers me more than apps that don’t play well with others.
Despite a girly-looking logo, which perhaps adds to the stigma that only girls count calories, I’ve found MyFitnessPal to be an invaluable piece of my fitness and health app arsenal. It’s made me smarter about what I’m putting into my body and, as hinted at in the previous paragraph, it integrates with lots of other apps making it a health and fitness hub of sorts (in fact, I think many people were hoping Apple’s Health app would be more like MyFitnessPal, although they can share data between them).
I first downloaded MyFitnessPal because it kept showing up as a top fitness app everywhere I looked from the App Store itself (in terms of downloads) to picks from other bloggers, the app seemed inescapable. So I gave it a try even though I was unsure about whether or not it could be useful to me personally.
I’m glad I did. MyFitnessPal is basically a calorie counter. You can tell it what your goal is (like lose weight or stay fit) and it will spit out some daily and monthly calorie targets you can hit.
For instance, if you say you want to lose 20 pounds in 20 weeks it might set you up with a daily number of calories you should aim for in order to hit your goal.
I’ll be the first to admit that tracking calories sounds like a drag. Who wants to take the time? But this is really where MyFitnessPal shines: it makes inputing meals, drinks and snacks really quick and easy.
The easiest way to add a good item into the app is to scan it’s bar code. Simple. If you want to use this app just know that the first week or two will be the hardest and after that it’s relatively painless. That’s because recently entered items show up when you go to add a meal or a snack. Hey — anything worth doing takes a bit of work, right?
If you’re serious about losing weight in particular, I think this app is basically invaluable — if you can stick with it.
WaterMinder is sort of like MyFitnessPal in that it helps you track what you’re putting into your body. But unlike the comprehensive MyFitnessPal, WaterMinder is laser-focused on one task alone: tracking water intake. And before you squawk too loudly that MyFitnessPal can track water too, I know, but…
WaterMinder has an awesome interface. It’s simple and fun: there’s a body that fills up with water as you add it. When you move your phone the water sloshes around. It’s a good visual indication of how close you are to your water goal.
The app itself gives some great reasons why you should care about drinking more water: it can help you lose weight, it can make your skin healthier, it can help prevent infections, it can help your brain work better and more.
Aside from seeing your daily fill and getting a percentage of what you’ve downed thus far (and how much further you have to go), you’ll also get a history which is a nice way to see how you’re doing over time.
Like every app on this list, WaterMinder works with the Apple Watch (another reason why it’s one of my must-have health and fitness apps).
I’ve talked a lot about Lark here on DailyTekk since I discovered it and I can’t stop raving about it. Lark is like a little health and fitness assistant (not quite a personal trainer, but more of a coach) that helps you get a handle on your health.
Lark’s main feature is feedback: you enter in things like what you ate for the last meal and Lark tells you what’s up. Maybe it’s just me, but Lark is super positive too. It could find negative things to tell you (like you ate too much sugar today), but instead it seems to focus on positive reinforcement which is nice. It’s almost like talking to a friend.
And that’s exactly how it works. Lark simply has conversations with you (as if you’re texting a buddy).
The reason that it works is that it’s easy. You don’t have to remember to open the app to input stuff. If you turn on notifications (which I recommend and which aren’t at all too frequent or intrusive) Lark will strike up a conversation with you every now and then at times when it thinks you’re ready to talk.
The Withings app is one of the most important health and fitness apps on my iPhone. Not because of it ability to track steps or features similar to other health hub apps, but because it can accurately track weight by connecting with a Withings smart scale.
Whether you are in great shape or overweight, metrics like body fat percentage, heart rate and, of course, weight are important to track. The Withings smart scale — and accompanying app — are the perfect way to follow all three.
The Withings Healthmate app also integrates with Apple Health and other apps which means it doesn’t lock you into a separate tracking ecosystem.
If you are an iPhone user and want to get into shape as quickly and easily as possible, I can’t recommend any health or fitness apps more highly than those listed here. I’ve personally used (and continue to use) each of them and they have made a real, tangible difference in how I feel both physically and emotionally. In other words, I’m feeling pretty dang good and these apps have all contributed.
What health and fitness apps do you feel are the best? Let me know in the comments below.