Apps have forever changed the way we do things, and fitness apps are no exception.
Not long ago, if people wanted guidance for getting in shape, they had to find a fitness center in the phone book, drive there, pay membership fees, and drag themselves out to the gym multiple times a week. In fact, some people still do that, and it works for them.
But it’s not the only option.
Thanks to the wondrous technology that is the smartphone, we have the option to have a personal trainer — multiple trainers, even — we can take with us wherever we go. Just download some fitness apps. Obviously, they’re not a perfect replacement, and you should always check with a doctor before starting fitness regimens, but the smartphone has given us a new range of fitness options.
Want to work out at home instead of driving to the gym? No problem. Need different trainers for different types of workouts? You have plenty to choose from. Worried about falling out of the habit while you’re on vacation? Your trainer goes where your smartphone does.
Fitness apps are fun, convenient and cheap (if they cost anything at all). So do yourself a favor and check out the best fitness apps to help you get (and stay) in shape. In no particular order…
Best Fitness Apps: Hot5
Available for: iOS
If you go to a brick-and-mortar gym, you’re limited to the expertise of the trainers who happen to be working there at the same time you are. So if you’re looking for a wider diversity of workout routines, Hot5 is one of the best fitness apps out there.
Hot5 offers users a handful of personal trainers, each with a different expertise. From weight loss to yoga and strength conditioning, this fitness app offers a variety of workouts that focus on different goals. They can be performed as standalone workouts, or tacked on to other routines to enhance your regimen.
So if you’re looking for a good, all-around fitness guide, Hot5 will be one of the best fitness apps you can find.
Best Fitness Apps: Pact
Available for: Android and iOS
Cost: Free (to download)
Maybe you have the resources and the trainers you need, and instead all you lack is motivation.
You’re not alone, and Pact might have a solution.
Pact might not be a fitness app the way that Hot5 is — it doesn’t offer any particular workout instructions or give you any fitness advice. But it does reward you for sticking to your workout routine. And it’s the creative thinking behind Pact that makes it one of the best fitness apps out there.
The method is simple: When you go to the gym and complete a workout, the app verifies your location, and you earn money. But if you miss your goals, you pay money, which ultimately goes to the more motivated app users.
Pact also can be used to track your daily food consumption, making it one of the best fitness apps for an all-around health focus.
Best Fitness Apps: Zombies, Run! 3
Available for: Android, iOS
Here’s an app for anyone who has complained that workouts are too boring.
Zombies, Run! 3 adds a narrative to your run, placing you in a zombie-filled wasteland where you must run for your survival.
The thing that makes Zombies, Run! 3 one of the best fitness apps out there is the fact that it doesn’t just take the obvious route and shout “Zombies! Run!” repeatedly. The app actually sends you on missions to collect supplies to help you survive the undead apocalypse. By completing enough missions, you build up a base to ward off your brain-hungry brethren.
This app also allows you to track important stats like distance run and zombie evaded, putting Zombies, Run! 3 among the best fitness apps for people who like a little adventure with their workout.
Best Fitness Apps: Sleep Cycle
Available for: iOS
Cost: 99 cents
Exercise and nutrition get most of the attention when it comes to fitness, but there’s another important aspect that tends to get ignored: sleep.
Getting a full, restful sleep is just as important as being active and eating well. But most people have a difficult enough time finding time for sleep, and even when you can carve out the time, it doesn’t mean you’ll sleep well.
That’s where Sleep Cycle comes in. This fitness app aims to help you understand your sleep patterns and wake you up when you’re feeling most rested.
Sleep Cycle measures your movement in bed and uses it to track when you’re in deep sleep vs. light sleep, and wakes you up when you’re closest to being awake, which helps you avoid long days of grogginess.
Best Fitness Apps: Strava Run and Cycling
Available for: Android and iOS
For anyone who likes to get out and go, Strava Run and Cycling is one of the best fitness apps you can find right now.
The idea is simple, but the execution is impeccable. Take your smartphone with you on your run or bike ride, and Strava tracks your route. When you’re done, you can see how far you went, how long it took you and how the day’s performance compared to past ones. And the app allows you to post your accomplishments to social media, in case that helps motivate you.
That’s all fairly standard stuff, though. Where Strava really excels is privacy.
The danger of posting your running or biking routes is that people can see where you start and stop. So if you run from home, it’s not too difficult for people to figure out where that is. Strava lets you mark activities and locations as private so they’re not visible to anyone else.
It’s a small thing, but should give you a bit more peace of mind while you’re out running.
Adam Benjamin is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace. He enjoys running, cross-training and martial arts.