By Dr. Mercola
One of the best benefits to owning a smartphone or tablet is that you can quickly turn it into a fitness assistance tool just by downloading the right apps. This technology is far underutilized, especially given that oftentimes the apps are free, as only about 19 percent of mobile phone users have downloaded a health app.1
Millennials (those aged 25 to 34 years) are those most likely to use health and fitness apps, and they do so about twice as often as other age groups.2
If you have yet to try one, sifting through the estimated 40,000 available mobile health apps may sound daunting, which is why I like to highlight some of the best available apps for you.
Two of My Favorite Fitness Apps
In 2011, for the first time ever, people in the US spent more time on mobile apps than they did on the Internet.3 The Internet is being progressively relegated to a background infrastructure that allows people to access data through apps with an elegant user interface.
This is shockingly remarkable when you consider that mobile apps have only been around for several years, but it’s also indicative of a technology that’s likely here to stay.
Many of you know that I have a passion for technology in addition to health, so health apps, which combine the two, are invaluable to a “gadget geek” like me. I have scanned many thousands of articles and downloaded several hundred applications, and the app suggestions that follow are among those I consider to be quite valuable.
Keep in mind that when using fitness apps, the phone or tablet can be kept in airplane mode to minimize any wireless electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure while still accessing the amazing computer power.
By far one of my favorite apps, this free app lets you track your activity and food/caloric intake using an activity log and food diary. The food calorie portion is one of the best pieces of software out there to record and keep track of your food macronutrients.
I use this app nearly every day to record my food intake and help me keep track of my macronutrient ratios. It’s an incredibly easy way to monitor your food intake without a lot of fuss.
MyFitnessPal has an easy to use interface that allows you to access about 1 million food items in its database, plus you can also add your own foods and recipes at any time and access them from anywhere with an Internet connection.
Once you enter new food nutritional information, it will be there for you the next time you need it. I really love this app as it quickly and easily allows you to see the number of grams of carbs, fats, and protein you're eating.
I consider myself fairly sophisticated nutritionally, but I was really shocked when I found out what the actual numbers were. This is a very powerful tool and best of all, it is free.
- Fitness Builder
For keeping track of your workouts, this is my favorite app. I don’t use MyFitnessPal to record my workouts, I use this app. There are loads of exercise applications on the Net but Fitness Builder, in my experience, is the most comprehensive fitness database in the world.
It also contains the largest library of exercise images and videos, the most challenging workouts across all disciplines, access to a live personal trainer and a complete set of every fitness tool, a calculator and tracking features. Most all of the apps I have are free, but this one costs $10 for the base version and it is worth every penny if you use it, as it helps you keep incredible records for your workouts.
Take Control of Your Health with These 8 Free Fitness Apps
The apps that follow were compiled by Cosmopolitan. They’re free, so you have nothing to lose by giving them a try (except, perhaps, an inch or two from your waist)…
1. Lose It
Keep track of your daily calorie intake simply with this calorie tracker. Especially useful is the app’s ability to estimate how many calories you can burn with different exercises.
2. GAIN Fitness Cross Trainer
Get fitness tips directly from personal trainers and even create a customizable workout matched to your fitness level, goals, and time constraints.
3. Jillian Michaels Slim-Down
This app allows you to track calories, food, and fitness while also supplying step-by-step videos, fat-burning exercises, recipes, meal and fitness plans and even a bar code scanner for nutrition facts labels.
4. How to Lose Belly Fat
Get a step-by-step plan, including tips and videos, on how to banish belly fat.
5. The 7 Minute Workout
If you have seven minutes, and this app, you can fit in a great full-body workout. The app has 12 sets of seven-minute workouts with audio so you can focus on your workouts – not paying attention to your phone.
6. Nike Training Club
This app has more than 100 custom-built workouts to help you get lean, toned and strong. It’s like having your own personal trainer and even lets you choose music to go along with your workout.
Track your workouts, get fitness tips, and reach your personal fitness achievements by joining this social fitness community.
First, you set goals, such as how many times you’ll go to the gym in a week, as well as set a monetary amount you’d be willing to pay if you don’t. If you reach your goals, you earn a cash reward. If you don’t, you “donate” your money to a community pot that pays others who reach their goals.
Beyond Fitness Apps: Top Tips for Getting Fit
You can certainly get fit without a smartphone. But many of you reading this already have and use smartphones and tablets. What you may not have access to is a gym, personal trainer or any type of exercise equipment. For little or no cost, you can access countless workouts via these apps, allowing you to get a fabulous workout you may not have otherwise had, which is one of the most productive, and least dangerous, uses for these devices.
That said, even if you plan to use fitness apps, you might be unsure of where to start in creating a comprehensive fitness program. I recommend incorporating high-intensity interval training (HIIT), strength training, core exercises, stretching, and non-exercise activity into your routine.
If you haven’t yet tried HIIT, it’s a wonderful exercise option when you don’t have a lot of time, as it takes only 20 minutes for a full workout. The HIIT approach I personally prefer and recommend is the Peak Fitness method shown in the video below, where one warms up and then performs 30 seconds of maximum effort followed by 90 seconds of recuperation. I will modify the number of repetitions from 8 to 6 when I need to, as it is sometimes just too strenuous for me to do all 8. So by listening to my body and cutting it back to 6 reps, I can tolerate the workout and go full out.
I then finish my Peak Fitness workout with Power Plate stretches, 10 pull ups, 10 dips, and 20 inverted push ups, and call it a day. In most cases, HIIT workouts should only be done two or three times a week. But that doesn’t mean you should take all the other days off. Switching up your workouts will ensure your muscles continue to be challenged and prevent plateaus in your fitness growth.
You want to avoid overtaxing any one area of your body and having a varied workout program helps you to do this naturally. This is again where fitness apps can be invaluable, as they offer hundreds of different workouts so your muscles are continually challenged.