Finding the mental wherewithal to get into workout mode can take some serious effort, especially when all your activities happen at home. It can be done, but you have to find an activity or commitment that speaks to you.
True story: I’ve been working remotely from a home office for more than five years. During that time, the gym became one of only a few places where I went regularly that was outside of my home. When COVID-19 struck and I could no longer go to a gym, I just couldn’t face the idea of working out at home—the same place where I work, eat, sleep, and live. For a few weeks, I ran and jogged outside. Then it got too hot. My body craved more movement, but I still resisted working out at home. Eventually, I found a series of online yoga videos packaged into a 30-day challenge. The instructor had a great vibe, and I decided to make a commitment. I pulled out a mat, and I’m now on day 17.
What will click and stick for you? Some people like having accountability, and thus can look for a workout app that involves letting an instructor see them via video stream. Some people prefer privacy and might be better off with an offline video or an audio coach in their earbuds. Some people actually enjoy exercising at home; they can certainly use workout apps to find new routines or techniques.
Whether you’re looking for a new HIIT program, marathon training schedule, or 30-day yoga challenge, there are plenty of apps and websites to help you along. Let’s look at what some of the best have to offer. (If you’re interested in more than just apps, take a look at our ultimate fitness tech guide.)
When time is tight, an app with short workouts is the best pick. Dedicating just five, six, or seven minutes to your health can make a difference, especially if you’re new to working out.
The Johnson & Johnson Official 7 Minute Workout is by far the best app we’ve found for short workouts. It’s a totally free app with a classic seven-minute routine that you can do anywhere. It has other options, too. Some workouts are longer than seven minutes, some are more intense, some less intense, and so forth.
Another app with short workouts is Onyx. You can commit to as little as five minutes, or more if you like. With a compatible iPhone, the app uses the camera to track your reps and watch your form.
Workouts on Demand
Apps that give you workouts on demand are a dime a dozen, but not all are equal in quality or price. Those that made the list here have high-quality instruction and are priced appropriately (or are free). Their styles vary, as not everyone is looking for the same thing in workout instructions. You might want a high-intensity workout one day and an intermediate yoga lesson the next; or body weight exercises followed by a general stretching session. Some on-demand workout apps coach you through pre-recorded videos while others connect you to live classes or coaches via video stream.
A few that made the list below are Shred, FitOn, Forte.fit, Keelo, and Nike Training Club. Read more about each one below, including their costs. Some are free or have a free level.
In addition to standalone apps for workouts on demand, you can buy at-home exercise equipment that have their own apps and workouts to go with them. These products are usually quite expensive. For example, the Peloton Bike will set you back $2,245 plus $39 per month for the workouts, and the Tonal mirror/weight-pulley system goes for $2,995 plus $49 per month for the workouts. Because this at-home equipment is so different from a workout app that you can easily download, we didn’t include them here. But you can learn more in our roundup of the best smart exercise equipment.
Activity Tracking, From Running to Lawn Mowing
Activity-tracking apps keep a record of all the activities you do. They can be for a specific activity, such as running, but often you can choose which activity you’re going to do from a list. These apps create a log of all your activities and the stats associated with them, such as how many calories you burned or whether your bicycle ride today was as long as yesterday’s.
Many activity tracking apps connect with fitness trackers to make it easier to record your activities. Some support heart rate monitors, too. The heart rate monitor, be it a chest strap or one built into a watch, records your heart rate as you move and creates a graph of your heart rate when you finish. Having this data is very useful if you’re coordinating with a healthcare professional to improve your fitness because they can look at your data to determine whether your activities are at an appropriate intensity.
Our top recommendation for people just getting started with exercise is Map My Fitness. It has hundreds of activities you can track, from vacuuming to rock climbing. For people just getting started with fitness, it’s rewarding to be able to count your gardening or dog-walking as an activity and to see how even daily activities can add up to a fitter lifestyle. Another great app is Charity Miles. It motivates you by donating money to charity for every mile you run, walk, or bicycle.
Workout Music Apps
A couple of fitness apps specialize in finding music for you that’s designed to power your workouts, whatever it is. The two that made this list are Fit Radio and RockMyRun. With these apps, you can get professional DJ quality mixing, songs that match your running tempo, or tracks made for your activity of choice, such as elliptical training or yoga.
Find Your Motivation
No matter what kind of motivation or daily prodding you need to meet your fitness goals, there’s an app that can push you in the right direction. If you’re looking for other ways to get healthy or change your lifestyle, consider our roundups of apps for weight loss, great meditation apps, and online therapy apps.