As you may or may not know, I’m a bit of a health and fitness nut. For the past few years, I’ve mainly been into running, cycling, and bouldering. But regardless of what activity I might be into, I try to maintain a certain level of overall fitness with a focus on core strength and flexibility. For that, I generally turn to a host of exercises from planks and crunches to yoga and pilates. Most of these exercises are stored in my head and used almost daily while others (namely yoga and pilates) are part of routines I do from Wellbeats, an on-demand fitness provider that my apartment complex subscribes to.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is another workout I do at least weekly (usually on my rest or easy running days). I find HIIT to be incredibly difficult to get through without the help of a coach to push me along and shout out the exercises.
I’ve used many of different exercise apps over the years and have settled on three free apps I think are great for coaching you through the workouts. I’m sure there are 1,000s of fitness apps available, but these are the best for getting in a quick workout. These are different than fitness-tracking apps such as MapMyRun, Strava, and Runkeeper (Strava is my personal fave among this crowd, by the way).
A few years ago, a study came up that claimed it had found the perfect 7-minute body workout that was enough to get your blood pumping and make you break out into a light sweat. The study was published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal and was popularized largely from an article in the New York Times. Dozens (100s?) of 7-minute workout apps soon surfaced on the App Store and on Google Play. To be honest, they’re all sort of the same, but I found these first two listed below ideal for their intuitive design, workout tracking, and no-frills approach to fitness.
- J&J Official 7-Minute Workout. I hate to promote a branded app, but this really is fantastic. What makes it so great, is it has the 7-minute workout, but you also have the option to add a two-minute warm up and cool down. The audio cues are sufficient to learn the exercises without having to watch the video example and it doesn’t interrupt your music. What’s more, this app has a “smart workout” feature that allows you to select your fitness level and follow along to a HIIT circuit. I have it set to the max fitness level (level 5) for a mix of moderate and hard exercises. The smart workout is usually about 26 minutes in length before adding the short warm up and cool down. Finally, this app includes a library of all the exercises that you can easily browse to either learn the movements or create your own workout.
- Quick Fit. Again, this features the 7-minute workout with video and verbal instruction. The iPhone-only app also features an intense abdominal workout (Quick Abs), 15-minute yoga routine (Quick Yoga), and a fat-burning workout (Quick 4).
- Mammoth Hunters. Mammoth Hunters is more of a lifestyle app based on circuit training and the paleo diet. I’m mostly vegetarian so I’m not quite sold on the idea, but I do admit the workouts are tough and the exercises are unique (have you ever done reptile pushups?). Like the J&J app, this also has an extensive library of exercises to peruse so you can create your own workouts.
Bonus: Not in the same category as the above-mentioned apps, but if you work a desk job like me, then you may want to download the Stand Up! app, which sends you alerts throughout the day to tell you to, you guessed it, stand up. I have reminders set for every 20 minutes. Although I usually just stand up and sit back down, I’ve found that’s just enough to give my eyes a break and keep my joints, back, and feet from getting stiff. It’s only available on iTunes, but I’m sure Google Play has plenty of similar apps.
Do you use any free fitness apps I should check out? Please let me know.