With thousands of gyms closing their doors, the $100 billion fitness industry is facing one of the hardest hits of all industries due to the Covid-19 crisis.
However, some fitness centres, like Gold’s Gym were unintentionally prepared for natural disasters such as Covid-19. This particular gym already had given their customers access to mobile apps that would enable audio and video-based workouts, and due to this, their service delivery hasn’t been hampered to the extent of some of their competitors.
Other fitness players in the market have also utilized the internet potential by offering services via mobile apps, social media platforms and communication tools like zoom. With this shift, fitness centres seem perfectly positioned to grow amidst the Covid -19 pandemic. For instance, by late March, American fitness brand Neo U has gained new subscribers at a rate of 600% (You heard it right, six hundred percent).
Health and fitness apps have set global records for both consumer spend and weekly downloads, as they saw an increase of 40% and 10% respectively and stood at a total of 59 million downloads and $36 million spend during the third week of March, 2020. During this lockdown period, the average weekly hours spent on health and fitness apps have also increased by 70% from December 2019 to March 2020.
While looking at this sudden increase in popularity, the future of health and fitness apps seem bright, but the question is, will this shift continue? As the lockdowns in countries are eased, in the post-pandemic world, will the customers start preferring going back to their usual studio or gym?
In recent years, mobile fitness has only been related to wearable devices such as “Fitbit”. Well, it seems reasonable to have such a mindset as fitness trackers were among the major driving forces that brought health and fitness apps in trend. But, for the fitness trackers, the time of domination is over. The definition of “fitness tracking” has extended from counting steps to comprehensive fitness monitoring which includes diet planning, workout routine creation, and many such criteria.
Steve Jobs once paraphrased someone’s thought when stating that “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them”. The statement seems to be proven if we look at the lifecycle of mobile fitness. It all started with functions like step counting and heartbeat monitoring. With time, app providers kept adding more features and services including diet planning and workout routine. When the consumers used such features, they started liking them and now we are at the stage where mobile fitness is a trend. People always want companies to provide diversity within applications, so that it would fulfil their hidden (new) needs.
The market is flooded with apps that can help users in making their diet healthier, sleep better, or practise mindfulness. There are many terrible apps too, some of which you will only find out to not be useful after you have used them. So to help avoid wasting your time, here is a list of the type of fitness apps that one can consider to use:
Activity Sharing App
An activity sharing app features sharing of the activity records to the social network, which is mostly built within the app itself. The users can share their rides, runs, marathons, have adventures with a large community, help each other, congratulate on one other’s efforts, and compete amongst the community to become the champion (of course, virtual).
One such popular app is Strava. Strava is one of the best mobile apps for runners and cyclists. It is very simple to use and include all the features mentioned above, for free. The premium version offers better training analysis and features such as mobile route suggestion.
Apps for Exercise Classes
These apps are often based on a subscription-based model that offers gym centre experience at home. Similar to educational apps, the exercise classes apps consist of video libraries of exercise classes, which the user can access when suitable. These apps usually have video categories based on video duration, type, difficulty, or body part. Another advanced feature some exercise classes apps incorporate is the integration of health tracking devices.
A popular app in this segment is Fiit. in addition to providing users with a variety of exercise learning videos, Fiit pairs with a heart rate monitor, named Wahoo Tickr X, which is provided by Fiit itself. Using this tracking device, the app counts user’s reps during strength and cardio classes, helping users to set their own goals that they can beat the next time they take the classes.
Best Running App
Running apps track many key stats of running such as distance, pace, and time. Most apps provide the tracking features for free, while charging premium subscriptions for guided sessions and training plans. The training programs are often personalized according to the individual user’s goals. However, the personalization is possible via software algorithms, making it feasible to implement this feature while keeping the costs low.
The best running app we’ve found till now is the Nike Run Club. This app does almost everything other running apps are capable of and in addition, it has advanced features such as audio-guided runs, which features Nike coaches and famous athletes including Mo Farah. The app has partnered with Headspace to offer mindfulness-focused sessions.
Best Cycling App
Smartphone apps for cycling provide cyclists with an array of data. Whether the user wants to record their rides or monitor the training there is a possibility of cycling apps for most of the cycling use cases. Cyclemeter is considered one of the best apps for cyclists. The app is comfortably the best pick for cyclists who seek features like stats, map, and graphical representation of data. Both Starva and Cyclemeter lead in this segment of fitness tracking apps.
App for Counting Calories
Counting calories becomes crucial when someone wants to be strict with their diet. There are many apps available in the market that help users to keep track of their calorie intake. The undisputed king of calorie-counting apps is MyFitnessPal. The app has a huge database of food, meaning the users can scan barcodes of their meals in the MyFitnessPal app to identify details about the calorie intake and other nutritional information.
Apps to Overhaul Life
Many customers look for one app that can help them improve their physical fitness, diet, and mental health. These apps consist of almost all features of individual physical fitness, diet, or mental health apps. Centr is the best app for this purpose. Centr uses a series of questions to tailor its health programmes to suit according to the user’s needs. These questions cover the user’s fitness aspirations, current activity level, and dietary preferences. When the user is done answering those questions, the app provides users with workout schedules, meditation sessions, and meal plans based on the responses. The user feedback has shown that the dietary and fitness advice by Centr is very effective. Customers have seen positive effects in a very short span of time.
Many mobile apps for weight-loss follow a staple approach of calorie counting. There are very few fitness tracking apps that go beyond the approach of mere calorie counting. Apps like OurPath use cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques to trigger positivity in the users, which will help them overcome the setbacks that occur naturally whenever someone tries to lose weight. OurPath offers a personalized three-month plan that includes goals and advice from an online health coach. To be noted, these coaches are either qualified nutritionists or registered dietitians.
Apps for Beginner Runners
There are apps that are focused on building a running habit in consumers. Beginner’s running apps are designed to help users run 5K without stopping. The unchallengeable hero among these apps is Public Health England’s One You. There are three reasons behind the popularity of this application. First, the app is completely free to use. Second, the individual training sessions and plans are presented very clearly. And third and the most important, the sessions are narrated by celebrities like sprinting legend Michael Johnson.
When it comes to helping people relax, calm themselves and then fall asleep, mobile apps focused on helping people sleep can be very helpful. One such app that is loved by many users worldwide is Calm. Calm incorporates a pile of guided meditation sessions and a seven-day course that help improve sleep. The app caters to a variety of customers which also includes people who need to listen to stories to fall asleep. To give you a clue about how well Calm is doing as a company, the app has some stories that are recorded by Matthew McConaughey and Stephen Fry.
You might wonder what a recipe app is doing among a bunch of fitness apps? Well, you should know that one of the most effective methods to maintain a balanced diet is to cook yourself. Your choices of ingredients will be healthier as compared to a restaurant which focuses on flavour and profit margins. If you are new to cooking, Sidechef is your way to a healthier lifestyle. The app claims to have more than 16,000 recipes that suit almost all dietary needs. Users can search for recipes by ingredients, which becomes a very handy feature when we try to clear the cupboard and make a dish from a random collection of items.
App for mindfulness
Meditation is very useful to manage modern-world stress. But, meditation isn’t something one shall learn by themselves, it takes a little guidance to make it effective. Headspace is among the best apps for mindfulness that can teach meditation if someone spends almost ten minutes a day doing it. The app has a free basic pack, in which it provides ten-minutes sessions for beginners. However, the premium version of the app is costly, but it brings hundreds of hours of content that help users to meditate.
The increasing penetration of mobile device usage and due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for fitness advice at home is triggering the growth of fitness mobile apps. There are plenty of fitness mobile apps available in the market, but not all of them serve the purpose of users with specific needs. There are many fitness use cases such as mental health that need to be addressed properly by the health tech ecosystem.