5-Star Wellness Retreat

Six Top Science-Based Fitness Apps

terratips fitness apps

New to fitness apps? Trying to sift through the bounty of apps that are currently available?

You’re in luck. Researchers at the University of Florida have done the legwork for you. They boldly entered the vast galaxy of available workout apps, filtered for “health and fitness,” and snagged 30 apps with exercise prescriptive programs. They then scored and ranked the apps based on fitness guidelines established by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

fitness app screenA leader in the development of science-based exercise programming, the ACSM has set basic criteria for fitness regimens. The organization recommends, for example, that a well-rounded fitness routine include cardio, strength and flexibility components and that those elements adhere to guidelines for frequency, intensity and duration.

When measured against ACSM criteria, the top performers were:

Sworkit Lite Personal Trainer

Sworkit offers strength, stretching, cardio, Pilates and yoga; randomized circuit training workouts that can be done anywhere; video demonstrations by personal trainers; verbal cues and instruction; and a “design your own workout” feature.

Pros: Sworkit received the highest score on flexibility of all the apps reviewed and it offered the most complete training program. Its 30-minute workouts contain all three core fitness elements recommended by the ASCM: aerobic, resistance/strength and flexibility exercises.

Cons: The researchers noted that some of the exercises, such as jump training, could be difficult for beginners.

iPhone and Android

The 7 Minute Workout-Get Fit

The 7 Minute Workout is a 12-exercise, high-intensity romp that will have you careening around your living room and leave you breathless. It is quick and easy to execute, even for most beginners and includes helpful verbal cues and video instruction.

Pros: The app provides well-designed aerobic and resistance exercises consistent with ASCM principles for high intensity interval training. The exercises are easy to fit into a busy day and the interface is easy to read and user-friendly.

Cons: The duration and level of intensity of the regimen isn’t sufficient for a well-rounded workout plan.

iPhone; “7 Minute” Android versions available

fitness appStrongLifts 5X5

StrongLifts offers a simple and effective three exercise/three times a week plan designed to build strength and muscle as well as to burn fat; each workout is 45 minutes.

Pros: Unlike many other fitness apps, StrongLifts offers high-quality resistance exercise and aerobic exercise in complete, progressive workout plans; the workouts are simple and easy to follow, even for beginners.

Cons: Requires weights; primarily focused on strength training; not challenging for an advanced lifter.

iPhone and Android

Map My Run 

Although designed for runners, Map My Run offers different routes, groups, and challenges to join no matter your fitness level. Best of all its free.

Pros: There are over 70 million routes to choose from or you can create your own. Features include immediate GPS tracking, connection with other devices, creation of groups and friendly competition among your friends and allows for food logging.

Cons: Doesn’t provide instruction on run mechanics, strength, or mobility training; outdated BMI calculator measurement.

Iphone and Android.

JEFIT Workout

JEFIT is a gym tool for fitness buffs and body builders. The app creates personalized workout routines and daily fitness plans, tracks and documents your workouts, and analyzes your results to help boost performance.

Pros: Provides a large database of exercises and workout routines for all levels with descriptions and video animations; has strong resistance/strength elements; has exercises for all types of weightlifting equipment; and includes social networking options.

Cons: Program elements must be set by the user; doesn’t currently work with FitBit or MyFitnessPal.

iPhone and Android

Fitness Builder

Billed as a portable personal trainer, Fitness Builder offers exercises and workout routines with images and videos for every fitness level.

Pros: Provides targeted exercises for specific muscles; can create unlimited numbers of workout routines; tracks body stats; offers daily exercises and weekly workouts; has sharing tools. Advanced, fee-based features include: social networking options; multi-week fitness plans; live consultations with fitness pros.

Cons: Requires an upgrade to progress beyond beginner workouts.

iPhone and Android

Still confused about which app is right for you? Most fitness apps are designed with a particular type of need or enthusiast in mind. Think about what you enjoy doing and how you approach exercise. If you like the outdoors, a running app might be right for you. If prefer to grab your exercise in little bits throughout the day, a 7 minute workout might do the job.

The researchers noted that most fitness apps, even if they offer beginner-level exercises, don’t typically take into account the needs of beginners, such as basic fitness level, age or familiarity with the exercise that the app is based on (e.g., yoga, weightlifting maneuvers, running technique). So before you hit the download button, take inventory of your general fitness and skill level. If you’re a novice or haven’t received basic instruction in the exercises you will be performing, especially running, ease in slowly and seek out guidance from a certified professional trainer. You’ll be glad you did.