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In 2017, Americans spent about $17 billion on gym memberships. But according to one study, 67 percent of them never went.
It may be wise then to try a fitness app, many of which are more cost-effective than going to a health club, where the average price of membership is $50 a month, according to fitness and tech reporter Peter Koch.
“These apps [are] usually much, much lower than that,” says Koch, who shares his favorite apps with Here & Now’s Robin Young. “This offers sort of a convenient way that's literally in your pocket.”
Through using technology such as GPS services, personalized coaching and even artificial intelligence, fitness apps can effectively track users’ workouts to keep them motivated.
Before downloading one, though, says Koch, it’s important for individuals to figure out what type of exercise works best for them personally.
“What's very important … is to do a realistic self-assessment beforehand so you know what motivates you, if that's group fitness, if that's running, if that's cycling, if that's yoga,” he says. “If you can stick to it, if you're honest about your fitness assessment, then I think that you can make it work.”
Koch's Favorite Fitness Apps
Aaptiv allows users to choose from a variety of different workouts, including stretching classes, yoga classes, boxing and weightlifting, according to Koch. It also provides guided audio workouts, so there’s no reason to look at a phone screen, he says.
“What I really like about this app is that it goes beyond what so many running apps do,” says Koch.
Nike + Run Club doesn’t just track and log your runs with a GPS, he says, it also provides audio-guided runs for new runners and free, personalized coaching for those who are more experienced.
“I'm a runner myself since high school, and the one thing I see among inexperienced runners is that they tend to go out and run roughly the same distance at roughly the same pace every time,” Koch says. “It's easy to understand why their fitness might plateau or they might lose interest over time.”
The app also allows users to take runs coached by Olympic-caliber athletes like Shalane Flanagan and Chris Derrick.
Keelo is considered a smart program, meaning the app adjusts according to users’ progress. The app centers on high-intensity interval training, looks at users’ exercise history and tweaks each workout accordingly, says Koch.
“That's a huge aspect of these newer training apps,” he says. “They use this artificial intelligence. They learn from what you're doing.”
Men in particular struggle to get past the outdated idea that yoga is only for women, says Koch. Asana Rebel offers a solution: It spice’s up yoga’s image by combining traditional yoga practices like Vinyasa and Ashtanga with relatable strength exercises like burpees, mountain climbers and planks.
“Charity Miles is as simple as it sounds,” says Koch. “It's looking for altruism as a motivator for exercise."
Users exercise to raise money for a charity of their choice. For running and walking, individuals can earn up to 25 cents per mile, and for cycling, they can earn up to 10 cents per mile.
Koch put this app on his list because most people — “at least the people who really start to get into exercise,” he says — get hooked on working out and lose valuable time for sleep.
Sleep Cycle tries to solve this problem by monitoring and recording users’ quality of sleep.
“What's really interesting about Fitbod is that it uses AI, or artificial intelligence, to help you plan your gym sessions based on your goals,” explains Koch.
“Every time you hit the weights,” he says, “it's not only guiding you step by step through each exercise — including the weight, number of sets and reps — but it also takes your performance from that day and uses it to tweak your plan going forward for upcoming sessions.”
“For the person who wants to outsource all of their fitness and nutrition planning,” writes Koch. “8fit is up to the job.”
The app offers services similar to those of a personal trainer and a nutritionist, by tailoring exercises and meal plans to each user, according to Koch. It also asks specific questions — “like how many weekly workouts you can handle, how many meals you want per day,” he writes — to create a fleshed-out workout plan.
Correction: On air, we referred to one of the fitness apps as “Fitbot,” when the reviewer was referring to the app, “Fitbod.” We regret the error.
This segment aired on March 4, 2019.
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