When I ask previously active clients what made them stop exercising, many of them point to two common culprits. The first is boredom, and the second is lack of measurable progress — they didn’t know if they were really getting anything out of it.
It’s not surprising. Even top-notch fitness programs become routine and rather blah if you do the same things over and over; and, if you’re not sure you’re getting a benefit, why make the effort?
I could write a book about all the wonderful benefits of regular exercise, but that won’t help you get out of bed at 5:00 a.m. so you can sweat out a workout before the morning commute. Instead, I’ll point you to something that more and more people are using to nurture their everyday exercise habits — fitness apps.
With these pint-size programs, you can conveniently track your workout length, intensity, heart rate, and calories burned; watch videos on exercise technique; chart your progress and watch your steps and miles add up; see your resting and exercise heart rates go down as your fitness level improves; get personalized advice on how to improve your exercise program; and go social, sharing fitness achievements with friends and family.
Interested? Here are a few of my favorites:
Fitbit: This app comes with a small clip-on device that measures daily steps, automatically uploading them to the Fitbit website with the help of a USB-based receiver. The Fitbit One model even uses Bluetooth technology to connect with your phone. The website and app gives you your daily and weekly step total, and sends you a weekly performance summary.
Striiv: This app turns your iPhone into a pedometer, offering a variety of fun challenges to keep you moving. Just turn it on, stick it in your pocket, and go. Striiv tracks your steps, exercise minutes, distance, and calories.
Nike Training Club: Get indoor exercise programs in 15, 30, and 45-minute increments, along with beginner, intermediate, and advanced exercise options. This app also offers video demos of various exercises along with descriptions and photos.
JEFIT: You can easily create a custom strength-training routine with this app, which features a huge database of exercises to target each of the major muscle groups. Action photos are provided for each exercise to demonstrate proper form
Healthy Habits: This tool lets you track daily habits with a simple checkmark; choose from items in the Habit Library or create your own.
MyFitnessPal: If connecting with fitness friends is a big motivator for you, try this app, which lets you track your workouts and share them with friends for accountability and encouragement. I’ve also gotten great feedback about the app’s food log, helping you track your calorie intake.
Apps and gadgets are terrific tools for keeping the fun in fitness; but remember there’s no substitute for professional medical and fitness advice. For safety, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. And for best results, work with a certified personal trainer or exercise specialist to make sure the exercise program you select is a good match for your health issues, abilities, and goals — no matter which digital training partner you choose.
Which apps have helped you reach your fitness goals?
Beth Shepard, MS, ACSM-RCEP, ACE-PT, has a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Arizona. Beth is an expert in fitness and health promotion and a certified wellness coach, helping people thrive by adopting sustainable lifestyle changes. She and her family love to hike, bicycle, and try new sports.