Load it with the right apps and your phone can be incredibly useful in helping you achieve a myriad of health and fitness goals. Whether you want to exercise more, make your diet healthier, start practising mindfulness or sleep better, there are brilliant apps that can help through a combination of guiding and tracking – and in some cases entertaining, so you almost forget you’re doing something “good” for yourself.
There are a lot of terrible apps too, many of which you won’t realise are terrible until you download and faff about with them, so avoid wasting your time by sticking to this list of the very best health and fitness apps.
It’s a curated list from our expansive coverage of the best workout apps, best running apps, best Apple Watch fitness apps and many others, all of which you’ll find if you keep scrolling to the bottom of this page.
The Best Health And Fitness Apps
Best activity sharing app
Strava’s enduring popularity isn’t down to the obsessive record-keeping of its users – it’s because of Strava’s social features. You can share your runs and rides with a huge community, congratulate others on their efforts, ask for advice, and compete with friends and rivals to nab the (virtual) King of the Mountain jersey for your local hill. Strava is also incredibly simple to get started on, and perhaps the best bit is that all of the above is part of the free offering. Paying for the premium version gets you better training analysis, access to a new mobile route suggestion feature and more.
Best for exercise classes
There are many subscription apps that offer a boutique gym experience in your home, with a video library of classes you can follow whenever you care to, but Fiit is the best we’ve tried. The classes are broken down by duration (there are 10-minute, 25-minute, 40-minute and 60-plus-minute options), type (strength, cardio or “rebalance”, the latter meaning yoga and Pilates), difficulty level and body part. The app pairs with the Wahoo Tickr X heart rate monitor that Fiit provides, which also counts your reps in strength and cardio classes, so you can then attempt to beat those numbers if you take the class again. The production values on the videos are high and the trainers are uniformly excellent.
Nike Run Club
Best running app
This excellent app offers run tracking that covers key stats like pace, distance and time if that’s what you’re after, but what sets it apart is the guided sessions and training plans. The audio-guided runs feature Nike coaches and famous athletes like Mo Farah, and there are also mindfulness-focused sessions through a partnership with Headspace, while the training plans are tailored to your current fitness and future targets. If you’re unsure how to train for your event or are just looking for extra motivation to get out for your run, this app will help – and it’ll do it for free.
Best for bringing the gym home
Many of the most popular group classes you can do at the gym are Les Mills sessions, so naturally Les Mills is keen to provide the most popular exercise class in your living room too – during the pandemic and beyond. The company’s at-home service includes more than 1,000 workouts, which range from 15 to 55 minutes long and include plenty of instalments of favourites BODYPUMP and BODYCOMBAT. There are also training programmes if you would like to try something more structured. Some of the classes require Les Mills equipment, which is expensive, but there are many equipment-free options too. The app costs £12.95 if you pay monthly, but there is a 14-day free trial available.
Best for starting to exercise safely
It’s very easy to overdo it when you first start exercising and while for many people the result will be an uncomfortable bout of soreness (DOMS) and a subsequent loss in motivation, for those with a chronic health condition it’s very important to begin training at a safe level of intensity.
EXi is an NHS-approved app that takes into account the medical guidelines for a range of chronic conditions to generate a free 12-week fitness programme that’s tailored to you. Based on your existing fitness level as well as any medical conditions, it provides workouts based on heart rate that you can follow using your preferred style of exercise, whatever that is.
Best for virtual rides and runs
If the idea of pedalling or pounding a treadmill belt while staring at a wall drives you crazy, Zwift will revolutionise indoor training for you. This app allows you to use a connected piece of cardio equipment to power an avatar around virtual worlds. It’s exceptionally popular among serious cyclists but is also an engaging way for anyone to get fit. There’s also a nascent version of Zwift for runners which is currently free. While it does require some investment in equipment to get going, there are affordable set-ups – our guide to how to get started on Zwift cycling and Zwift running explains all.
Best cycling app
There’s a stunning array of data available for cyclists to pore over on this smartphone app, making it comfortably the best pick for stat, map and graph junkies. That wealth of information is presented well with lots of bright colours involved – always a plus in our book. Torn between this and Strava? Stop worrying – you can sync all your Cyclemeter rides to Strava easily and enjoy the benefits of both.
Best for counting calories
The undisputed king of calorie-counting apps. An unparalleled database of foods means it’s easier to scan barcodes and log your meals with MyFitnessPal than with any other app, which accordingly helps you track your calorie intake and detailed macros. All of which should, in theory, make keeping tabs on what’s going in your body virtually effortless.
Best app to overhaul your life
One app to improve your physical fitness, mental health and diet – and it’s fronted by Thor himself Chris Hemsworth. The app tailors its programme to your needs using a series of questions that cover your current activity level, fitness aspirations and dietary preferences. Once you’ve set it all up, you get a schedule of workouts (lots of them) and meditation or mindfulness sessions, as well as a weekly meal plan. Do clear your schedule beforehand, however, because there are lots of sessions to fit in and cooking to do, plus you’ll need some time to find and get intimately acquainted with your local health food store. The dietary and fitness advice is rock-solid, though, so you should begin to notice the effects in next to no time.
Best weight-loss app
Second Nature goes well beyond simple calorie counting, which is the staple approach of many weight-loss apps. Instead it uses cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques to instil a positive mindset with the aim of helping you overcome the setbacks that naturally occur whenever people try to lose weight, and ultimately enabling you to maintain a healthy weight in the long term. The personalised three-month plan includes advice and goals from your online health coach, who will be a registered dietitian or qualified nutritionist.
Best for a fast workout
This app offers short bodyweight workouts to help you stay in shape no matter what time and equipment constraints you face. And when you have more than a few minutes to spare, it’s easy to add a couple more circuits on Seven’s app, which guides you through every step of your exercise via images on both your phone and smartwatch, if you have one.
One You Couch to 5K
Best for beginner runners
There are a lot of apps that will coach you through a training plan designed to get you running 5K without stopping – but Public Health England’s One You rules them all for three main reasons. The first is that it’s completely free, the second is that the plan and individual training sessions are presented clearly and engagingly, and the third is that those sessions are narrated by celebs like sprinting legend Michael Johnson and comedian Sarah Millican alongside the main coach Laura, which works wonders in keeping you interested.
Best sleep app
When it comes to helping you to switch your mind off, relax and – if you wish to – fall asleep, Calm is the best app around. It has many guided meditation sessions and a seven-day course designed to help improve your sleep, and if all you really need to fall asleep is for someone to read you a story, then there’s the Sleep Stories section. You even get the bonus of those stories being read to you by someone famous, with Matthew McConaughey and Stephen Fry among those who have recorded stories for the app. If there’s a more relaxing voice than the rich Southern drawl of Matty M, we haven’t heard it.
Best recipe app
One of the most effective ways to improve your diet is to cook for yourself more, because the odds are you’ll make healthier choices than the people choosing what to put in takeaways and ready meals. This app has over 16,000 recipes to suit all dietary preferences, and you can even search for recipes based on the ingredients you have to hand – ideal when you’re trying to clear a cupboard and work out what dish you can make from the random collection of items left in it.
Best for making running fun
The ultimate in running gamification, Zombies, Run! plunges you into a world where the undead run amok and you are the key to humanity’s survival. Each run is one of over 400 missions where you attempt to gather supplies for your base in a bid to rebuild civilisation. The strength of Zombies, Run! is in the combination of an immersive story with an extremely slick app, all of which helps distract from any pain in your legs and lungs. You only get a handful of missions to try in the free version, so if you find yourself hooked this is one app where the premium version is very much worth the modest outlay.
Best reward app
If you’re a keen runner or cyclist you’d frankly be a fool not to download Running Heroes. Link it to your favourite tracking app – Strava, Garmin or whatever else – and then every activity you undertake will rack up points in the Running Heroes app. These points will net discounts on every major athletic gear brand, as well as money off races and one-off treats. The points also count towards regular competitions for grander prizes, like a new fitness tracker.
Best for yoga classes
This app contains everything you want in the way of yoga classes. It caters for all abilities and you can see the poses in the class in advance to get a better idea of whether it’s the one for you. The app also has a Smart Coach feature to help you avoid the paralysis of choice that can come when so many classes are available. Pick six targets you’re aiming for over the next month and the coach picks a class for you each day with those goals in mind.
Best mindfulness app
Meditation can be a useful tool to manage stress but, like almost everything, it takes a little guidance to do it effectively. Headspace promises to teach you meditation in just ten minutes a day. You can test those claims with its free Basics pack, which provides ten ten-minute sessions for beginners. The full app is costly, but brings with it hundreds of hours of content to help you meditate.
My Possible Self
Best mental health app
This NHS-approved app has been created with clinical input from experts at the Priory Group and uses evidence-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help you improve your mental health. There are tools in the app that allow you work through CBT techniques in the same way you might with a therapist, helping you to reframe your thoughts and break you out of negative cycles. The app also has a range of workout videos, recipes, and breathing and mindfulness sessions, and can help manage and improve anxiety and stress among other conditions.
Best for weight training
A comprehensive workout aid for those who commit plenty of time to the weights room. Gymaholic employs a wide range of exercises in a set of workout plans for all abilities, or alternatively you can build your own custom routine. The app also contains 3D augmented-reality animated exercise guides, making it easier than ever to see how to perform a move and what muscles are being worked.
Download from App Store | Free, premium £3.49 a month
Best for finding exercise classes
Find the studios and fitness classes near you with the help of MINDBODY, which lets you search by class type and location. It’s a handy app to use when travelling, because boutique gyms and studios are sometimes crammed into the most surprising spots. And in contrast to rival Classpass, you don’t have to muck about with credits and signing up to automatic monthly top ups – you just pay money for a class. Refreshingly simple.
Best Apple Watch running app
If you’re a keen runner who wants to use the Apple Watch rather than a dedicated sports watch from the likes of Garmin or Polar, this will be the best £7.99 you ever spend. WorkOutDoors turns the Apple Watch into a proper running watch, with all the stats and customisable data fields you could ever need. In some ways it even makes for a better experience than a traditional sports watch, because you can see routes and maps that you can scroll and pinch like a smartphone map. You can also create and follow structured workouts using the WorkOutDoors app. The only major limitation is that it can’t use the always-on screen on the Apple Watch, which is reserved for Apple’s more limited native Workout app. Even with that omission, WorkOutDoor still offers a rich enough experience to replace a Garmin if you also want to enjoy the Apple Watch’s many other benefits.
Download from App Store | £4.99
Best for catching skin cancer early
Skin cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, and the leading cause of death by cancer for men under 40. It’s also very treatable if caught early, and the best way to catch it is to make regular checks of any moles you might have. This free app developed by Newcastle University makes it easy to do just that. You can take photos of your moles each month and compare the images to see if there have been any changes in things like size or colour, which could be cause for concern.
The race app can accurately predict where and when your runner will be, and show you how to get there
Les Mills+ offers an extensive range of home fitness workouts at a great price, along with a beautifully designed (if expensive) barbell set-up
Peloton is now offering five tiers of membership on its app, so there’s something for everyone, even those who want something for nothing
This introductory yoga course is worth trying if you’re a runner deep into marathon training
Coaches can connect with their athletes, set workouts and track their progress with the free Garmin Clipboard app
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