They can track your workouts, chart your sleep patterns and help log your calorie intake at each meal, so it's no wonder users are increasingly looking to apps as a way to stay on track with their health and fitness goals. According to a recent study, about one-fifth of smartphone users have downloaded at least one health and fitness app. But with so many to choose from, it can be difficult to separate the best apps from those that will just clog up your phone. To help you navigate the mobile market, we've rounded up 5 of our favorite apps to help you improve boost your fitness level.
It turns out the question of "how far did I go?" is relatively easy to answer with the help of GPS. RunKeeper gives runners the ability to track speed and distance on the go, plus it comes with features such as auto-stop (handy when exploring areas overrun with stoplights). And there's no need to sacrifice those tunes: RunKeeper allows users to listen to their own playlists, and can speak over the music to give updates at specified distances or times. The app also gives users a way to make their workouts public via Twitter or Facebook (or right from the app), and integrates with popular platforms like MapMyFitness. (Free for iOS and Android.)
Not up for lugging a notebook around the gym? The Fitocracy app takes the look and feel of the gaming world and applies it to the fitness realm. Users log workouts and gain points based on difficulty, weight and various other factors. After accumulating a certain amount of points, lifters can "level up" just like in popular video games. Users can also encourage their friends by giving them "props." For those who don't like to be locked to a tiny screen, the app also syncs with the web version, Wi-Fi permitting. (Free for iOS and Android.)
If you're aiming to boost your squat and deadlift personal records, look no further. The official StrongLifts app puts the popular 5—5 strength training program in the palm of your hand. The app guides users through three workouts a week consisting of only three exercises each day. The app also times rest periods and tells lifters when to bump up in weight or take it back a notch. Although the official StrongLifts app is only available to iOS users, Android users have access to a variety of similar apps like Strong Log (free) that incorporates the 5—5 program alongside several others. (Free for iOS.)
Think you've got a chance racing against the pros? With Strava, recreational cyclists can see just how well they'd match up. The app tracks cycling distance and speed with the help of a smartphone (and supports uploads to their online log from supported Garmin devices). It then charts performance through heart rate, average time and a metric known as a "Suffer Score," a measure of just how hard you're suffering (available in the premium version). It even allows friends and competitors to engage with one another through comments and challenges. Strava even helps users stay on top of equipment by tracking age and status of gear. And for those that prefer two feet to two wheels, there's a running-specific version as well. (Free for iOS and Android.)
No matter the activity (from running to rock climbing to unicycling), the MapMyFitness app gives you a way to track it. Through the main app as well as several variations (MapMyHike and even MapMyDogWalk), users can measure distance, speed and change in elevation across nearly any form of movement. The app also allows users to save routes to repeat later and offers full integration with an online training log, where users can keep track of all of their activities. The pro version even integrates with accessories such as heart rate monitors and cadence sensors, offers detailed training programs, and gives friends and family members a way to follow users during their workouts through live tracking. (Free for iOS and Android.)
Mobile apps certainly don't replace hard work in the gym or planning in the kitchen. Users still have to put in the time to see success. Still, these mobile trackers and timers can offer a healthy dose of guidance and accountability. For those who wish to ditch electronics during their workout, pen and paper can still do the trick. But, the amazing technology in the apps mentioned above can certainly make sticking to healthy habits just a bit easier!