Technology now allows us to monitor and measure our progress towards (or away from!) our health and fitness goals more accurately and diligently than ever before.
We can measure our heart rate, the number of steps we take; the distance we walk, run or cycle; how fast we’ve travelled; how many calories we’ve consumed (and how many we’ve burned); how much (or little) we’ve slept … But which of the hundreds of thousands of apps and gadgets that are out there should you choose?
Here is a list of some that you can consider!
MyFitnessPal is a mobile app that helps you track the food you’re eating. Free to download and use on your Android, iOS or Windows phone, the app has a database of over five million foods so you can easily track your nutrition and energy intake.
You can even scan the bar code on that chocolate bar (or packet of kale chips) to add it to your daily consumption. It also syncs with a bunch of fitness gadgets, like Fitbit, Jawbone and Garmin, just to name a few.
This is a series of apps for a range of activities and sports. Whether you run (Map My Run), ride (Map My Ride), or prefer to mix it up, MapMyFitness has more than 600 activities , meaning there probably isn’t an activity that you’ve thought of that it doesn’t cater to. Most of the apps measure similar data, so you really only need download one, even if you like to participate in lots of different sports.
The apps use GPS to track your workouts, showing your route, time, distance, pace, speed and few others. It’s a free app but some of the features are behind a paywall, so if you want to indulge your inner data geek, be prepare to pay a subscription. You can also share your runs, walks and rides on social media and there’s a great new community to interact with too.
Strava is pretty much the fitness app de rigueur in the running / cycling / triathlon community. It logs your runs and rides, tracks your routes and allows you to connect, share and compare with your fitness buddies. The reason that everyone is using it?
It syncs with gadgets. Serious (and even the not-so-serious) runners and cyclists will have some kind of device that measures their progress in infinite detail. Strava syncs with Garmin, TomTom, Polar, Fitbit, Timex, Suunto and more.
Gain Fitness may not be as widely known as the fitness apps above, but it’s a little bit different and this is what gives it an edge. If you’ve ever wanted your own personal trainer by your side 24x7, this is the app for you. Gain Fitness will set you up with customised workouts based on your training goals.
Whether you want to lose fat, gain muscle, get stronger, or faster, Gain Fitness will design workouts specifically for you. Workouts will progress and keep changing so you’re never bored – and you keep seeing results! Virtual Personal trainers do come at a cost, though, so make sure you check out what you’re up for before you dive in.
There are also self-guided workouts, where you choose from 10 different training styles, including bodybuilding, yoga, Crossfit, Pilates and more.
As you can probably guess from the name, Cyclemeter is one for the cyclists amidst the wealth of running apps. This free app for iOS collects detailed data and is also great for those who dabble in more than one sport.
It’s highly customisable, so you can get into as much detail in your data as you want to. Cyclemeter tracks, maps and records your bike rides, spitting all your data out in slick graphs and tables. You can even differentiate what type of cycling you’re tracking, be it road racing, mountain biking, an endurance event, or even training indoors. You can also upgrade to the Elite version to get all the features.
Available across a number of smartphone platforms, including BlackBerry, Android, iOS, and Windows, Runtastic Pro measures your runs and walks. The pro version includes a built in coaching app to help keep you focussed on your goals. Although there is a free version, the paid pro version is well worth the investment to acquire all the features, which include voice feedback and music player integration.
There are also different modes for competition and training. Runtastic Pro is also great for other activities like walking, hiking and cycling. You can also log details add notes at the end of each session to record information about the weather and terrain (sunny, hilly, unsealed trails, humid) and even how you were feeling on the day (tired, injured, etc.).
You’re probably thinking, ‘what is Spotify doing in here? It’s a music app, not a fitness app!’. Well, you’re correct, of course, Spotify is one of the world’s most popular music streaming apps, but many people aren’t aware of the Spotify Running feature that detects your walking/running tempo and plays songs to match it. Cool, right?
There are also a bunch of customised running playlists and also some up-beat mixes to liven up your workout if running isn’t your thing. Available on iOS, Android and Windows phone platforms, Spotify’s fitness features are only available to premium members, but with all the other benefits of premium, you may well find it worth the investment.
There is a huge range of Fitbit devices to suit all budgets and requirements. From the original Fitbit One that clips on to your belt, pocket, bra, etc. to the super affordable Fitbit Zip to the Fitbit Blaze smart fitness watch, there is bound to be something in the range that meets your needs. The Fitbit was originally designed as a wearable technology to track sleep and activity. Now you can use Fitbit to track your weight as well.
It syncs with your phone or computer wirelessly, keeping track of your progress as you go. You can also use parts of the Fitbit website and mobile app for Android, iOS and Windows without having a Fitbit device. Use the app to count calories, log weight and other health information like blood pressure and glucose levels.
Together with the Up app (available for iOS and Android), Jawbone Up2 is a stylish, affordable activity tracker. It’s a very basic version of some of the more sophisticated trackers, but it does the basics well. There is no heart rate sensor or smartphone notifications, but it tracks your steps, distance travelled and energy burned, and has a sleep tracking function too.
The app allows you to track food and drink as well as your mood and connects with many third party apps like MyFitnessPal and Strava. There is a good social network that allows for teaming up with buddies to keep each other motivated.
When it comes to wearable GPS and activity tracking devices, Garmin is possibly still the market leader. From the Vivo range of everyday health trackers to the stylish high end Fenix adventure watches and a huge spectrum of specialised running, cycling and multisport devices in between, a Garmin device is your go-to for tracking and recording your sports and fitness data.
Garmin’s recent developments in optical heart rate monitors have met with rave reviews and if you’ve even worn a heart rate chest strap on a long run, you will understand the freedom of getting accurate heart rate data without the chaffing.
For serious and casual runners (or walkers, or hikers), the Garmin Forerunner 235 does pretty much everything you could ever need. It’s a daily activity tracker, capturing heart rate, steps and calories but dives into the serious data when you need it (it even estimates your Vo2 max!). It has smartphone notifications for iOS and Android and has music controls.
Whatever your fitness app, have a go and start moving towards your fitness goals now!