Tracking your activity is all well and good, but is it really worthwhile if all you get is a quick snapshot of where you are in any particular workout?
Clearly the answer to that is yes, as seeing your progress can help spur you on to finish your session and achieve your goal.
But if you could see your stats over a given period of time that would be far more beneficial. You’d be able to see the progress you’d made, motivating you to do more, and blips in your performance which can offer insights into where you need to improve.
And knowing this means you can make informed decisions regarding any changes you make to your routine. Add the ability to integrate with data about other aspects of your life, such as your diet, and you start to get a more holistic picture of your welfare.
And that’s where apps come in. By syncing your data to an app, or maybe more, you’ll have access to a range of features such a stats, charts and tips to help you reach your health, fitness and wellbeing objectives.
Top 3 Best Activity Tracker App
To give you an idea of what’s on the market, click on the links below for a quick review of some of the most popular apps.
Endomondo is a cross platform app, available on all major platforms including Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Phone, designed to track you activity.
And when I say activity, I mean just that. As well as the usual sports such as running and cycling, Endomondo tracks other popular sports such as golf, canoeing, skating, an even some less participated sports like scuba diving and kite surfing.
And if indoor sports are your thing, it’s got you covered too. There’s tracking for a range of activities including boxing, yoga, fencing, pilates, weight training and more. In fact, Endomondo tracks 50 different types of activity.
The basic version of the app is free to download and has a host of both personal training and social motivating functions. While they’re all available for Android and iOS users, Blackberry and Windows Phone users may want to check the Endomondo website as one or two features may not be available to them.
You can sign up with your email, Facebook or Google+ account, but if you want to also use the website just remember that you have to use the same details to sync the data between the platforms.
Once signed up you’ll be taken to the workout screen. Here you’ll be able to enter stats relating to your workout. Once you’ve done this, tap the green start button and start your workout. You’re now being tracked in real time.
Once you’ve finished working out, tap the red stop button. You’ll now be able to share details about your workout with your friends and challengers. In fact you can also share status updates with them throughout your routine.
Metrics for your workout are displayed on graphs and if you hover over them, you’ll see your monthly equivalents.
You can also enter your weight and the app will tack any changes over time. The summary schedule displays stats for all your activities, but you can filter for each individual sport. It will show you total workouts logged, along with total distance and duration, average speed and pace and calories burned.
These are all displayed in user friendly charts which can be filtered by time. So you’ll be able to see your results by day, week, month or year.
Within the free app you can set a specific objective such as,
- Beat a time or distance
- Follow a route
- Beat a friends time
The paid version also allows you to set objectives for interval training.
The app has buttons for music and speaker. The former allows you to play tunes stored on your phone which, if you’re like me will distract you from the effort of exercising and make the workout more enjoyable! The latter delivers virtual training to your workout.
Swipe the screen to your left and you’ll see a map of the route you have taken. Your maps are store in the system so that you can refer back to them at a later date. You can see where you were fastest and slowest and even see your speed relative to altitude.
To compliment the app there’s the Endomondo website. Set up your profile here and as well as being able to see additional data to that shown on the app, you’ll be joining a worldwide community of like minded people. But there’s no need to worry about other members seeing your data, you can just switch on the privacy settings.
Once a member you’ll be able to participate in challenges which have been set up by either other members or the Endomondo staff. Take part in one of these and you’ll see your name on the groups board. Not only will you be motivated to reach the top, or possibly not fall to the bottom!, but you’ll be able to benchmark yourself against others.
The challenge environment can be a great source of encouragement. Just imagine how you would feel toughing it out during a particularly arduous workout, to receive a text of encouragement from a friend or another challenge participant who may live on the other side of the world! Can’t give up now:)
This app integrates with many of the major brands such as Garmin and Fitbit and smartwatches as well as activity trackers. Data files with and extension of .gpx, .tcx and .fit can be imported into the Endomondo website, making it available to users of a variety of fitness tracking devices. With all the activities tracked, and functionality available, it’s definitely one to download.
MyFitnessPal is the brainchild of Mike Lee, a marketing executive looking to shed weight before his wedding. Unimpressed with being told to keep a manual record of his calorie intake Mike, who worked in Silicon Valley, set out to find a digital alternative. And what he found horrified him so much he decided to brush up on his high school programming skills and develop his own!
With advancements in technology, particularly the introduction of the smart phone and bar code readers which allow for easy input of data, MyFitnessPal now boast the world’s largest nutritional database with over 5 million foods.
To get the most benefit from this you have to enter the calories of everything you consume. But that’s neither difficult or time consuming. Use your mobile phones camera to scan the bar code and the app will search the database and retrieve the calories. In the unlikely event that your food can’t be found, you can add it manually.
You’ll be able to see how your calorie intake is adding up against the meals you’ve planned for the day. If you know you’re attending a particular event, such as a corporate do or a birthday bash, and know you’re likely to consume additional calories there, you can plan for other meals to be lighter, or to take some additional exercise.
Combined with the calories burnt reported from your activity tracker app, you’ll know your net calorie intake for the day.
Ultimately, whatever diet you decide to follow, food tracking apps allow you to make better decisions regarding what you eat. By recording everything, you’ll start to notice what the “naughty” foods are and the chances are you’ll be able to find a healthier alternative which is just as tasty. And that’s likely to be a permanent change.
So if you’re looking to lose weight, and your activity tracker app doesn’t include diet tracking, MyFitnessPal could just be the partner you need to help you shed those excess pounds.
But is this all it does?
So far we’ve discussed the free app, but in February 2015 MyFitnessPal was acquired by athletic apparel maker Under Armour. The company have recently launched a premium version of this hugely popular calorie counter and diet tracking app. So for a cost of $9.99/month or $49/year, what do you get and is it worth it?
Well the first thing to say is that the premium app is ads free! That may be welcome news to some, but it’s no reason for upgrading. But this just might be.
The premium version offers better insights and improved graphs. As well as calorific content, you’ll also be able to see data relating to carbs, protein, fat and a whole lot more.
You can choose to have you data displayed on one of three pre configured dashboards.
- Carb-Conscious: Displays carbs, sugars, fibre and calories
- Macronutrients: Shows carbs, fat, protein and calories
- Heart Healthy: Reports on fat, sodium, cholesterol and calories
And if neither of these fit your agenda, you can create your own custom dashboard by selecting three nutrients.
You’ll be able to discover the nutrient breakdown of the foods you consume and will know at a glance which foods you need to swap out to lower any unhealthily high levels.
You can also add custom goals for each of the nutrients, by gram or percentage. If you work out on some days, and therefore require a greater intake, and take it easy on others, you can set daily goals to reflect this.
At first glance this seems like a major improvement, so what are users saying? Two main criticisms seem to be reoccurring. The first is the cost. While many are happy to pay for the removal of the ads, $9.99/month is generally considered to be too high, especially with the number of other diet tracking apps available. The second is the reliablity, with a number of bugs being reported.
A number of current users have suggested the company offer a free trial period, or a lower price for existing members, but Under Armour are standing by the price they’re charging for this premium product. So it doesn’t look like they’ll be any movement there. Regarding the bugs, it’s inconceivable to think that a company that paid $475m for this acquisition won’t get those sorted out. So if you’re interested in this, it might be worth tracking the company for updates on bug fixes and then taking the plunge.
Fitocracy, where fitness meets fun!
If you’re one of those people who know they should be doing more exercise but somehow end up in front of the games console instead, Fitocracy could be the app that gets you out of the chair.
Combining fitness with gamification and social media, this app has an addictive element to it. Upon signing up you can follow any of the eight free fitness programmes pre loaded into the app. If none of these suit your needs, you can create your own.
For every workout undertaken you’ll earn points, and just like those videos games, as you earn more points you’ll move onto higher levels. Once you complete your workout the Fitocracy robot, Fred, will appear on your screen and award you points. He’ll keep a tally of them and as you earn more points you’ll move up to a higher level. At each level you’ll need to earn increasingly more points to progress to the next.
And as you achieve specific fitness milestones, such as running your first 5k, or lifting a certain percentage of your bodyweight, you’ll be awarded special badges. For some this may feel a bit gimmicky, but for others receiving an award helps to keep you motivated. And when you see a collection of awards starting to build, you get a sense of achievement that you would have missed had your progress not been recorded.
Team up with friends or other internet users to play those videos games? Well you can do that with Fitocracy too. If you have friends, family or even work colleagues who use the Fitocracy app, you can create a group. This allows you to see the workouts of the other group members and support each other so that collectively you all remain on track.
Don’t know any other Fitocracy users? Don’t worry. You’ll find a positive Fitocracy community just buzzing with people happy to help, encourage and support you. Form a team and challenge and motivate each other.
Want more than the free app offers? Why not become a Fitocracy Hero? For $4.99/month or $44.99/year you can access a range of additional features including,
- Weekly Insights Report. Delivered to your inbox these show you a summary of your activity, highlighting specific accomplishments such as distance travelled, weight lifted and records broken. A great motivational start to the week.
- Unlimited Programs. Not only will you have access to a larger bank of professionally written fitness programs, but if you like the look of a fellow Heroes program, you’ll be able to save that to your account as well.
- Duels. Fancy challenging another Hero to a one-on-one contest? You can do it with duels.
- Hero Board. You’ll have access to this exclusive part of the forum where professional trainers are at hand to answer your questions.
- Early Bird Access. Try out the new features before they’re released to the general public.
If you’re looking for something a little more structured to help you lose those surplus pounds or build up your muscle strength you can sign up for one of Fitocracy’s coaching programs. There are group classes available tailored specifically for weight loss or muscle gain, or you could opt for personalised one-on-one coaching. Prices start from $7/month and you’ll receive,
- 4 intense bodyweight workouts, prepared specifically by the Fitocracy coaching team to help you achieve the maximum benefit in the minimum time. Your workouts will be scheduled into your Fitocracy calendar and will be accompanied by videos, images and notes on how to perform them. Each week you’ll receive more challenging workout designed to help you burn fat, gain body strength and improve your overall mobility.
- Guides and articles showing you not only how to build a great nutrition plan aimed at achieving your goals, but how to stick to it. You’ll also receive some handy tools to track your progress.
- Quality content showing you how you can develop the habits and skills to make the lifestyle changes required to make your changes permanent. The main reason people put on weight after losing it is that they simple revert back to their old behaviour. Don’t let this happen to you!
- Access to a members only group of Fitocrats also participating in the Get Fit program. Here you’ll be able to discuss your workouts, seek advice and offer motivation and tips to fellow members. There’s even a Fitocracy coach on hand for some added professional guidance.
Whether you like to exercise alone, or enjoy the support of a group Fitocracy’s got you covered. Access to professional trainers is available at rates far below what you’d pay at your local gym, and the gamification aspects of this app will appeal to many. With a starting price, it’s definitely worth trying out.
Things You Need To Know About Fitness Activity Tracker App
Obviously different apps will have different features, some will allow you to team up with others and show results on a leader board, some report back on sleep as well as activity, badges are offered by some as a motivation tool, while others allow you to manually add data, such as food intake, to report a more comprehensive position.
Activity is tracked in one of two ways, either via motion sensors or your phones GPS.
GPS allows for routes to be tracked and displayed which may be the preferred option for those participating in distance training.
Motion sensors however, tend to be more accurate at measuring the amount of calories burned. Therefore if you tend to focus on weight loss, this may be the preferred option for you.
If your activity tracker has an app, the best thing to do is to sync your data and start using it. If you have wifi, this will often happen automatically.
If your app doesn’t report back on all the elements you’d like to track, or you’re not happy with the way it presents its feedback, many devices will also work with third party apps. So be sure to check these out as well.