If I lost my smartphone, I would be lost. I know I’m not alone. I remember a time where I thought they were superfluous, but now it’s my main way of communicating and gathering information when I am not sitting at a computer (and these days I’d much rather not be sitting in front of a computer). Being able to track my health and fitness data on-the-go has been invaluable for my initial weight loss, my weight maintenance, and as motivation to keep on going with both health and fitness.
Studies have shown that those who log their food are able to maintain their weight loss longer than those who don’t. I am also a big supporter of being accountable to something – whether it is to a log or a community!
The following reviews are for apps are ones that I use frequently and recommend. Although many apps do multiple things, I’ve categorized them into its main functionality.
Starting in 2010, I lost 60 pounds in a little over a year, simply by using the LoseIt web and iPhone app. I’ve always found the web interface sufficient but nothing special, but I love that it has kept a graph of my weight loss since 2010. It’s great to keep me on track! Also, I love graphs. Put in your data, including how much you want to lose, and it will calculate your calorie goal. It lets you scan barcodes, has restaurant data, input recipes, add exercise, actually still use this app to monitor my weight loss graph because of it’s historical data, but I’ve since moved on to MFP.
In 2012, I shifted from LoseIt to MyFitnessPal (or commonly MFP for short), mainly because of its food database seemed to have more restaurants in my area (New England) and really because more of my friends were on it. There is a community aspect on LoseIt, but I never used it as extensively as MFP. MFP’s web interface isn’t as pretty compared to LoseIt, but their app is pretty slick and the community aspect is strong. It does all you would expect an app like this to do: It lets you scan barcodes, has restaurant data, input recipes, add exercise, and even water intake. Put in your data, including how much you want to lose, and it will calculate your calorie goal. But a big thing for me is that MFP links to FitBit, accounting your day’s activity level and adjusting your calorie goal accordingly.
(Free app, Paid program)
I learned about Vitabot from my fitness studio/gym. It’s a calorie-tracking app on steroids. Not only does it track calories/fat/fiber/protein, it tracks a slew of vitamins and micro-nutrients Then it grades you on how well you’re keeping up to the recommended daily allowances. The app is a necessary convenience in this world of LoseIt’s and MFP’s, but it is pretty limited. Although the app is free, it requires you to hook up to a web front (usually a paid or complimentary offered by someplace like your gym or nutritionist). The web app is much more robust, offering suggestions to fulfill your nutrients, but that’s for another post.
Yet another community-based health tool, Fitocracy has a unique spin of assigning point values to your fitness activities (cardio, weights, and sports). Those points help you “level up” to show your progress. Again, the web app is where you want to be, but the iPhone app has proven valuable while I’m doing my exercises (usually not near a computer) and want to log my activity immediately instead of trying to remember it all.
Although the web app for MapMyFitness has a super cool calendar view of activity, I must say that the iPhone app has proven to be more useful. I turn on MapMyFitness when I’m going for a walk or a run, it uses GPS tracking to track how fast I’m going, where I’m going, how many calories I burn, the changes in elevation, and if I’ve saved the route before it’ll show me if I’ve passed my time. Oh, did I mention that FitBit links up to it too? So the steps that you take with your FitBit are automatically logged in MapMyFitness. The MapMyFitness app has other features too, but honestly, I don’t use them because there are other apps, such as in this list, which do the job better. A downside to MapMyFitness is that they are kind of insistent about inserting ads. But you gotta support a free app somehow!
(Free app, Paid device)
I love my FitBit, which is basically a really fancy pedometer++ (that I wear everyday) with a community aspect. The app for it is essential for me. Not only does it work as a wireless sync station for my steps, stairs, calorie expenditure, activity, and sleep data, it allows me access to track calorie and water intake, and it shows me where I rank with my friends. I have several friends with FitBits, and we use the app to keep tabs on who’s taking the most steps for that week! The FitBit app is pretty cool, but the web interface is super slick (but that’s a post for a different day). Oh, and did I mention that it connects to MyFitnessPal so that my calorie goal for the day fluctuates based on my actual activity? I’ve found that to be key for the FitBit app because I find the calorie tracking features to be inaccurate. So I use the MFP app to track my calories, which syncs to my Fitbit app, so I can dynamically see how much activity I should aim for to be within my calorie goal. Yeah, it’s pretty cool.
RunKeeper is very similar to MapMyFitness, but it is one of the few outside apps that links to Fitocracy. I have to be honest, I am only mentioning it here now because it is a commonly used app, but I haven’t used it extensively since the weather here in New England hasn’t been inviting enough for me to go outside and run.
The Run5K app is basically the Couch to 5K app, which helps you go from not being a runner at all to being able to run a 5k using interval training. I actually did pay for this app, and I think it’s worth the couple bucks. You can set it to where in the program you want to start, and it talks you through warmups then the jog/walk intervals for the full duration, either with voice or tones. You can also add a playlist to go along with your training, and there are controls right in the app. I’ve spent many afternoons on the track or around the neighborhood jogging and just waiting for the voice to tell me to “Walk now.” I kept falling off the wagon and having to restart the program a couple times, but I’m glad I have it. Sometimes it makes it easier if there’s “someone” telling you what to do.
This app is a fitness calculator and weight manager, which I’ve used primarily for tracking non-weight/bmi measurements that other apps seem to favor. With Fitter, I can track my BMI, BMR, Body-Fat Ratio, and Waist-to-Hip ratio. Oh and it graphs them (and it should be apparent by now that I do like my graphs)! To be honest, that waist-to-hip ratio is kind of a neat thing to know both as a whole-body health indicator but also for the beauty theory. When your weight seems to have plateaued, but you have been working out, sometimes the best way to track your progress is in inches and not pounds.
I have no clue how many teaspoons are in a millileter, but with ConvertBot, I know that there are 4.9. Maybe that measurement isn’t the most common, but often when I’m trying to convert a recipe or an item that isn’t in LoseIt or MyFitnessPal the item is listed in cups in the recipe but in tablespoons in the app. Or grams to ounces. Convertbot has been so valuable to make those quick conversions. It can convert measurements for mass, speed, temperature, time, volume, area, currancy, data size, and length.
I enjoyed the free app Seconds that I had to get SecondsPro. These apps are interval timers that are perfect for working out. With the pro version, I have several timer sets for different types of workouts, such as doing activities in intervals of 5 minutes for a half an hour, or every one minute for 10 minutes, or a set with a 5 minute warmup, then a 30 minute activity, then a 5 minute cooldown, whatever you need. You can also set the music and colors to change with each interval change. This is perfect for HIIT. And for me, it’s perfect for fitness hooping where it’s not always feasible to hold a phone or stopwatch while you’re moving around. The timers can be beeps or speech. You can also import timers that the makers have created. I bet you could also use this app for non-fitness activities too!
What is your favorite health/fitness app for your smartphone (iPhone, Android, etc.)? We only know what we know! Learn a bit and share a bit!