Here at Wellable, we’re always keeping tabs on new trends and tech in health and fitness to continuously improve our member experience. This can be tough - in 2020, more than 71,000 health and fitness apps were created. With so many apps out there, there’s something for everyone, but it can be difficult to sort through the clutter and discover new and engaging ways to get and stay fit. No worries, though - we’re on the job!
There are some well-known health and fitness apps that already stand out. Nike Training Club, AppleFitness+, FitOn (Android, Apple), and Beach Body On Demand provide a wide variety of online fitness classes and other features. Many of these apps are integrated with digital devices that track health and fitness data, with AppleHealth (iPhone, AppleWatch), GoogleFit, FitBit, Garmin, Oura, and Whoop standing out.
There are also many well-known specialized apps. Strava is the leader for outdoor running, and AllTrails is the go-to app for hiking. Zwift is known for outdoor cycle enthusiasts, and Peloton is the biggest brand for indoor cycling. Sweat caters primarily to women, and Cntr (Android, Apple) is mostly designed for men. Alo Moves and Glo focus on yoga. For those who want a real personal trainer to hold you accountable, try Future.
Diet, sleep, and mental health are important too! In fact, diet can have an even bigger impact on your health than exercise does (though it is important to combine both for long-term benefits). As such, apps are increasingly offering nutrition and meal plans, with MapMyFitness, Weight Watcher’s WW Digital (Android, Apple), and Noom (Android, Apple) leading the way. For mental health and wellness, meditation apps such as Headspace and Calm (Android, Apple) have emerged as dominant, and help with sleep too.
Criteria When Choosing Fitness Apps
Despite the abundance of options, 75% of users abandon their apps after only 3 months, so there’s room to improve on all of these apps to make them more engaging and sticky. Globally there are almost 400 million users spending over $5 billion on health and fitness apps, so they impact a lot of lives, and a lot of money.
Some of the most common considerations we’ve seen experts recommend to stay engaged are:
- Look for fun and motivating activities - “The best app is the one you use” is common advice shared by several experts. Sheer willpower is rarely sufficient to stay motivated, so seek out whatever motivates you, whether it be charismatic coaches, leadership boards, challenges, music, personal trainers, fun activities, your friends, or anything else (there’s probably something out there for you!).
- Stay within your budget - apps can cost more than $300 per year (which is still less than most gym memberships), but there are plenty of free apps, and most have free trials, steep discounts for new users, and favorable pricing for annual memberships.
- Test it out - since most apps have free trials, test them out! See if you like the experience before committing to an annual membership. And don’t be afraid to mix things up - some variety can keep things fresh and help you to stay motivated.
- Choose your venue - are you a gym or studio person, do you work out at home, or is exercise your chance to be outdoors? Do you prefer sports, equipment, or calisthenics? Will you be offline or off the grid, and do you rely on GPS? Either way, there’s an app for that!
- Personalize your program - if you already know what you want, make sure your app can be customized to suit your needs. Otherwise, look for existing programs that fit your interests and fitness level, or take advantage of personal trainer apps to help you get started.
- Track your progress - most apps offer some level of integration with data trackers and connect to devices for additional data. Make sure your app of choice can integrate with the devices you already have or want - or vice-versa! It can be rewarding to see how you’re progressing and motivating to set and reach goals.
- Connect with others - connect with your friends or plug into a community to challenge each other and hold each other accountable.
Top Under-The-Radar Health And Fitness Apps
With all of this in mind, we honed in on ten “under-the-radar” apps (plus one which is coming soon) that are experimenting with interesting ways to make fitness more engaging. To find them, we did a sort of “meta-analysis” of top fitness and health app lists from leading publications written by health, fitness, and technology experts. We then selected some less well-known apps to research further and shared our favorites below.
In other words, these expert-curated apps were mentioned the least but stood out the most:
- Aaptiv - Untether yourself from the screen with this audio-only app. With music in the background, a trainer talks you through the exercises so that you don’t need a screen. There are thousands of exercises available, with new ones added every week. There are also multi-week training programs, and you can even share “sweaty selfies,” support other community members with confetti, and contact the Aaptiv team right in the app. You can expect Aaptive to set you back about $100 per year.
- Charity Miles - Choose an organization to support and start getting in shape for charity! Log your preferred activities (from running and walking to dancing and biking), and earn donations from corporate sponsors, friends and family, charity sponsors, and maybe even your employer, as some companies already sponsor their employees through the app. The app is free, though there is a paid Extra Mile Club to access special discounts for members.
- CrossRope (Android, Apple) - Make jump roping part of your routine! Jumping rope, which may bring to mind boxing movies, the CrossFit “cult,” or even elementary school playgrounds, is a fun and often under-appreciated form of exercise with many benefits, including endurance, agility, cardiovascular health, bone density, and muscle strength. With CrossRope you can also find tutorials for more advanced techniques to challenge yourself (and to keep up with those jump rope influencers). CrossRope costs about $70 per year, though they also offer weighted jump ropes for an additional cost ranging from about $120 to $290.
- Dance Church - Have fun while getting fit with dancing. Dance Church aims to create a space that is “welcoming to all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and identities.” With more than a decade of in-person classes, they recently went online to expand their reach with on-demand and live-streamed classes. You can still dance IRL in Brooklyn, LA, and Seattle, with pop-ups across the country too. For some, the 1980s vibe could be described as “kitschy,” though many will likely be drawn to this same vibe, including your children who may want to work out beside you! Annual memberships costs about $200.
- Johnson & Johnson 7 minute workout - Research in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal suggests you can get an effective aerobic workout in just seven minutes a day. You may have come across Seven, which offers 7-minute workouts as well, but this app is free, and there’s something comforting about having a major corporation throw its weight behind an app like this. This “science-based” app was designed by Chris Jordan, Director of Exercise Physiology at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute.
- Onyx - Get feedback on your form and have your workout adapt to you, without having to pay a trainer. The AI analyzes your form and counts your reps as you exercise. With its 3D AI motion capture system on your phone, Onyx counts your squats, times your planks, and measures your pace with just a camera. It also helps you to improve your form to improve results and avoid injury by advising you to “bend lower,” “straighten your back,” and “jump higher” with audio feedback. The app is only available on iPhones with true depth cameras (IPhone X and newer), and in June 2022, the company shut down its app business, but it has generously left the library of workouts available for free (with some limitations on features).
- Outside (coming soon) - Skip the Metaverse and get fit in the “Outerverse.” While this app hasn’t appeared yet on any top fitness and health apps yet, hopefully, it won’t take long before it does. Kevin Callahan, Founder of MapMyRun and Co-Founder of MapMyFitness, has teamed up with Outside Magazine to help build the “Outerverse,” an ambitious project where the metaverse meets the outdoors to keep people moving and exploring outside. They already have links to upcoming tools, including NFTs. We’re excited to see what else comes out of this partnership!
- RockMyRun - Match your workout to your music, or you can have your music adapt to your workout! RockMyRun is what you get when you combine world-class DJs with running and fitness experts. You can “let your body drive the beat” by syncing your music to your Heartbeat (iOS Only) using a variety of heart rate monitors, by using steps data from the accelerometer in your smartphone, or by adjusting the tempo of your favorite music to match your target BPMs. An annual subscription costs about $80.
- Sweatcoin - Get paid to get in shape, and get acquainted with web3. By logging your activities with this app, you can earn Sweatcoins, which you can then use to purchase thousands of goods and services from brand-name partners. You can also donate your Sweatcoins, or convert them to the new SWEAT wallet so that you can play web3 games with NFTs, discover crypto, or invest for additional rewards. The value of the currency comes from brands targeting health-conscious audiences, insurers that benefit from members with healthier lifestyles, and governments hoping to keep health costs under control.
- Sweat Factor - Have your workout meet you where you are. Wellable has already partnered with Sweat Factor to bring its world-class instructors and a wide variety of workouts - from HIIT to yoga, barre to Bootcamp, kettlebells to kickboxing - to our employee wellness platform. Sweat Factor also seems to be the only app available on just about any screen you can think of, including Android, Apple iOS, Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire. It was founded by Mike Donavanik, an LA-based celebrity trainer who has been featured in The Los Angeles Times, Town & Country, Shape, Fitness, Self, BuzzFeed, Us, Star, Women’s Health, Refinery29, PopSugar, and a number of other online, national, and international publications. The annual subscription costs about $120 per year.
- Zombies, Run! - Get an extra push in your runs by having zombies chase you. Zombies, Run! Is an award-winning audio workout with over 200 missions (and at least 8 seasons) narrated to you as you run. The stories cleverly embed high-intensity intervals by making you run faster when you’re being chased by zombies and offer game-like rewards as you collect supplies for your base. It costs about $40 per year.
With tens of thousands of health and fitness apps out there, it can be pretty daunting to find one that works for you. Fortunately, most have free trial periods, so you can experiment your way to being fit and to reenergizing your routines. Hopefully, this article helps you get started with at least one app, and maybe even guides you toward one that’s extra engaging, even if it’s a bit under the radar.
- CNET Best Fitness Workout Apps
- Sports Illustrated Best Fitness Apps
- Good Housekeeping Best Workout Apps
- Tom's Guide Best Workout Apps
- PC Magazine Best Workout Apps
- Forbes Magazine Best Fitness Apps
- Esquire Magazine Best Health & Fitness Apps
- Very Well Fit Best Fitness Apps
- Wired Magazine Best Fitness Apps and Services
- Shape Magazine Best Online Dance Classes
- Good Housekeeping Jump Rope Benefits
- Run Repeat: 100+ Fitness App Statistics 2021/2022 [Research Review]
- App Annie The State of Mobile Report 2021
- Data.ai Pumped Up: Health and Fitness App Downloads Rose 30% in a Landmark Year for Mobile Wellness
- Diet or Exercise Interventions vs Combined Behavioral Weight Management Programs: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Direct Comparisons