How to use mobile apps to improve fitness

Right you, I’m going to speak right down the camera to you.

This weekend I got chatting to my mates’ wife. She’s started running and, because I do the odd bit of cycling, we started discussing Strava. The app, as you’ll know if you’re a runner or cyclist, has become the default go-to tracking and exercise-community app for a lot of people. Doing a ride, pushing yourself hard, then getting home to find that you’ve achieved some personal bests, it’s just a brilliant feeling really.

But that’s not the entire reason that people use it, because that community element really is key. You get to see what other athletes are up to. So, even if you don’t necessarily have a training “buddy” to go and ride or run with, you can feel part of something and it pushes you on.

Take this evening for example. I’ve noticed that someone has done a really good ride, but I’ve sat at home eating biscuits. This gives me a push to get off my backside, and when I do – when I come back – I might get a “Kudos” off that person, or someone else, which gives me a real sense of achievement.

I started riding because I’m sat on my bottom in an office all day, but even those who move around at work can be sucked into a more sedentary lifestyle thanks to our smartphones. One of the most obvious consequences of our technology-dominated lives is the increase in obesity levels throughout the developed world. We don’t need to go to the shops to get anything now. We don’t need to lift a finger. It can all be done on our little screens. Obesity has now become a major health problem in a number of countries, along with other conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cardio-vascular disorders and cancer. Here in the UK, 1 in 6 people in a hospital bed have diabetes. Some 10% of the entire NHS budget is spent on diabetes. That’s around £10 bn per annum.

Improving technology has helped to make the mechanics of keeping fit more effective. Apps can now work in the gym, and there’s more wearable fitness devices which will talk to your phone so that you can track your heart rate. You can get turbo trainers to simulate road biking, smart shoes to track your running and watches to monitor your heartbeat. You can use the internet to check out lots of reviews for them.

Alongside these technological advancements, those fitness apps have been developed that can help people to get and stay fit. Many of the apps, such as MyFitnessPal, Strava, Pact, Charity Miles and FitStar have become hugely popular and have helped millions of people all over the planet to improve their fitness levels. It’s worked for me but, let’s not forget, getting fit still takes a lot of willpower.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, those fitness apps can give you an outside source of motivation so you’ll make changes in your lifestyle. It’s just like when you login to Facebook and see that your friends are all going on holiday – you kinda want to go too.

It’s the motivational effect of competition, encouraging you through the comparison of your efforts. It makes getting fit both more fun and more motivating.

Another advantage of fitness apps is that they are able to set you challenges based on your body condition. Many apps are able to track not just your fitness activities but also your BMI, age, weight, pulse and a host of other important indicators. By bringing together all of this information, the app is able to set a training schedule perfectly tailored to your needs, setting just the right level of challenge to help you improve.

Fitness apps can also keep a record of your health, including all of the measures mentioned above, along with calories burned or gained, so you can make a clear assessment of your own progress. You can actually see, in real detail, how you’re progressing. You can see yourself getting fitter. Again, this is really motivational.

Flexibility is another advantage of fitness apps. So many of us have hectic, demanding lives and we don’t always have the time to spend an hour in the gym, which is why apps are ideally suited to the modern world. Apps can design a routine to fit around your schedule so that you can balance your work, home and personal life with your fitness training.

So if you do want to try and shift the bulge or perhaps just stop getting out of breath when you run upstairs, try a fitness app. It’s not just a “gadget” or a “geeky thing”, it really will push you on.