Use your phone to get fit

Use your phone to get fit

Do you perform some type of physical activity regularly, or wish that you did?

jogging trail sign
Parks with trails help people stay active.





You probably know that medical experts recommend physical activity; it not only helps us feel and look better, but it can even prevent certain chronic illnesses and delay death.


Physical activity fact sheet from the World Health Organization-WHO

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  1. Did you make a new year’s resolution to exercise more?
  2. Has your doctor told you to increase physical activity to treat a chronic condition or to prevent one?
  3. Do you need to lose weight, lower your blood pressure, control your blood glucose(sugar) or cholesterol?
  4. Do you want to feel more fit, stronger, and energetic?


blood pressure cuff, pill holder with medication
Controlling blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol can help prevent and manage heart disease.





If you answered yes to any of these, and you own a smartphone, you may consider installing and using a fitness app.


Using a health or fitness app can help

  • Motivate you to be more active
  • Monitor your compliance with activity
  • Measure your progress, and
  • Manage data that you and your doctor can use to improve your health.






Features to look for in a health/fitness app – you may not need or want all of these, but these can increase the usefulness of an app

  • Has a user-friendly interface
  • Offers free trial version
  • Easy to initiate
  • Reliability during the activity
  • Includes a goal setting option
  • Offers real-time feedback
  • Customizable to user
  • Expert consultation available
  • Incorporates behavior change techniques based on science
  • Syncs with other apps and devices/computers for review and sharing
  • Supports social networking
  • Offers periodic summaries


Based on sales and independent reviews, here is a small sample of some of the top fitness apps available now.

They are organized by category, using the mnemonic FITNESS.


(This list contains affiliate links which may pay  this blog  a commission at no extra cost to you.)

FantasyZombies, Run!

Run, walk or jog while completing an adventure mission

Intense Cardio RunKeeper

tracks aerobic exercise and weight loss


feet in sports shoes





Tracking and Analytics Fitbit

tracks exercises, food intake, calorie, weight and sleep

Net weight loss MyFitness Pal 

tracks food calories intake by barcode scanner , tracks nutrients, sugar and fiber

milk, yogurt, fruits, vegetables
Nutrition apps can help you make better food choices.

Eating/diet Fooducate

ranks overall nutritional value of food item and suggests alternative food choices when needed; customized to user

someone standing on a scale

SleepSleep Cycle

tracks sleep quality and quantity, optimizes wake-up interval

SpecializedCharity Miles

motivates more miles of walking, running, or cycling as users can earn donations to a charity of their choice for each mile travelled.







Using an app and a fitness device may help you overcome

some of the barriers to physical activity such as

  • Lack of time
  • Inconvenience
  • Boredom
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of enjoyment
  • Fear of injury
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of ability to  exercise


Apps require a minimal  amount of technical skill and knowledge to use,  as well as financial resources to purchase and maintain. You must “actively engage” with it to benefit. And the value of health apps to change behavior and health outcomes has not been scientifically established.


I have been using the app MapMyRide on my phone. When I’m walking or riding my bicycle, it keeps track of the distance , route and calories burned. I can manually enter activities I do when I’m not carrying my phone, like ballroom dancing. I can even enter activities like gardening, vacuuming, swimming and exercise. I like being able to look back at my workout log and see all that I’ve done the past week, month or year. It motivates me to keep it up, or step it up if I’m lagging .


Map My Ride app




If you choose to use a health app and device, set a goal for its use and periodically assess if it is helping you achieve it.


two champion athletes
You may even become an Olympic champion.


How about it? Do you or have you used a health/fitness app? Please share your experience with us by leaving a comment.


Information in this blog post accessed from The American Journal of Medicine (2016) 129, 11-19

“Smartphone Applications for Patients’ Health and Fitness”, by John P. Higgins, MD, MBA, MPhil