Last year, Nielsen reported the top two New Year’s resolutions were to stay fit and to lose weight. Millions pledged to kick off 2016 with the definite goal to get in shape but this year, you can expect the same old resolutions will likely top the list again.
After all, many of those people just repeat the same sentiment, year after year. In January, gyms will be filled with resolutioners trying to sweat away the worst of themselves. But by March, much of the New Year’s crowd will have fallen away. Clearly, something isn’t quite working.
Part of the problem might be that people just don’t know how to get in shape. Without committing to major expenses and time sucks like personal training sessions or other classes, they’re stuck to figure things out on their own. Research can provide a baseline training plan, but sticking to a routine with only self-discipline to keep you in check can be much harder than it sounds.
Like anything else, the right technology makes living the fit life much easier. Using apps and gadgets can help to keep resolutioners on the right path by tracking progress and providing feedback and insight into how best to approach training and exercise on the individual level.
But like any other training hack, the gadgets and apps listed below can only do so much for you. They’re just smart tools to make the most of your hard work and sweaty hours on the trail and in the gym. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to get moving, eat better and make the commitment to a healthier lifestyle.
Here are some of the best apps, wearables, gear and more to help you live a healthier, more active life in resolution season and all the way through the year.
The simplest of fitness apps, MapMyRun requires just one thing of its users: go running.
Armed with a smartphone and a good pair of sneakers, even the most sedentary resolutioner can become a super-smart jogger in no time without investing in a wearable or advanced tracker. Using the phone’s built-in GPS, the app logs the most basic measures of a run, like distance, duration and approximate calories burned, which is all the information needed for beginners to get off to a good start.
Where MapMyRun really shines, though, is in its more advanced features. It can track speed, pace, elevation and the exact route covered by a run, which is recorded on a map layout. Advanced training options include preset running routes created by the user community, specialized workouts, training plans and sponsored challenges.
To make running more of a group activity, users can connect on social media and share workout stats to compete with friends and the larger MapMyRun community. Every workout logged is compared to community averages, so users always know where they stand.
Available for iOS and Android. Free (with in-app purchases).
Freeletics takes the minimalist approach of MapMyRun and expands on it, becoming an all-in-one personal trainer in your pocket with no need for additional equipment. Its main focus is convenience, fitting individually tailored workouts into the user’s schedule no matter where they are.
While there are Running, Gym and Nutrition focuses of the service available, the real crown jewel is the Bodyweight app, which in 2013 was the first version to hit the market. Rather than going to the gym to exercise, Freeletics users are asked a few basic background questions and then given five to 30 minute training plans. These workouts only require a small open area to complete in some cases, the app claims users only need 2×2 meters of space to get their sweat on.
To get more than just basic workouts out of Freeletics, individual coaching packages are available via in-app purchase. These provide a greater level of individualization and insight into the training process, along with “psychological mechanisms” (not to mention a financial incentive) to kickstart motivation.
Available for iOS and Android. Coaching packages start at $3.07/week for 3 months ($39.99).
Aaptive kicks the personal training aspects of other fitness apps up a notch, focusing on seven different popular workout styles treadmill running, outdoor running, elliptical training, cycling, yoga, strength training and race training to deliver classes led by nationally recognized trainers directly to the user.
The classes are audio-only, but that helps to make Aaptive’s most appealing feature more attractive: all of the workouts are paired with a music playlist specially curated by its trainer. Instead of being forced to mimic the motions of a trainer, users can listen to the directions and allow the tempo of the music to push them forward in their workouts.
Aaptiv claims that over 150 classes are added to the app’s repository each month, so the cost is somewhat justified by its wealth of options. Along with basic classes to set a fitness baseline, there are monthly challenges with targeted goals available to stay motivated throughout the year. One attractive feature for runners: the race training section, which includes plans to prepare for 5k races all the way up to marathons.
Available for iOS and Android. Subscriptions for unlimited access to classes cost $9.99/month.
There are a fair number of fitness wearables stuck on step counting, providing just a bit more insight into users’ activities than a basic pedometer. The Moov Now is a direct repudiation of those, both in its function and its (relatively) low price. A pedometer-style wearable will help you understand where you’re training is at, but the Moov will help you determine where you need to go.
Rather than just keeping a log of users’ steps, the Moov Now actually tracks the specific motions associated with a range of fitness activities running, swimming, boxing, cycling and general training are supported.
But the wearable, which is worn on the wrist or ankle, does more than just track the activity to provide a list of static data for the user to deliberate over. The connected Moov app acts as a personal coach, analyzing the wearer’s motions to give real-time audio feedback on form and technique.
Price: $59.95. Moov app available for iOS and Android.
The Garmin vvoactive GPS smartwatch is an actual standalone wearable, cutting the proverbial Bluetooth cord from a paired smartphone (although there are extra features available via connected app). It has built-in GPS-enabled sports apps with specialized features for commonly tracked activities like running, biking, swimming and others that are less common, like skiing and golf.
Along with its standalone functionality, the vvoactive provides users with another notable feature for wrist wearables: a function to measure heart rate. In many cases, exercisers are stuck using chest straps to track their ticker. It’s not the only smartwatch with the capability (Fitbit’s Charge 2 boasts comparable tech), but paring it with the phone-free functionality makes the vvoactive a winner.
When users do choose to connect with a phone to use the app, they get most of the features that typically come along with a smartwatch: push notifications, message and call alerts and more, along with individualized training cues and coaching tips expected from a fitness-focused device.
Price: $199.99. App available for iOS and Android.
Forget AirPods Jabra’s Elite Sport earphones remove the wires and add fit-tracking wearable features.
As a pair of wireless earphones, the Elite Sport offers everything you’d expect: high-quality sound and noise-cancellation from two microphones in each bud, along with hands-free calling. Users can control basic music functions using built-in buttons on each ear bud. Like most other headphones designed for workouts, they’re waterproof and sweat-resistant.
The buds also contain two sensors: a motion tracking and counting sensor for basic fitness functions and a clinical-grade, in-ear heart monitor. The information compiled by those sensors is then fed to the Sport Life companion app, which can provide training metrics and in-ear coaching for a variety of activities.
Price: $249.99. App available for iOS and Android.
Smart training clothes
Hexoskin takes the fitness tracking functions of other wearables, combines them with a whole array of other health metrics and weaves it all together into the fabric of a skintight training shirt.
Using a secondary movement sensor (seen in the image above), the Hexoskin system counts steps and measures activity intensity, peak acceleration, cadence and sleep positions. Its cardiac and breathing sensors, which are built into the shirt, make it a much more attuned tracker to a range of measures like heart rate, HRV, heart rate recovery, ECG and breathing rate.
Hexoskin’s apps provide users similar functions for fitness activities as other wearables, but it’s Connected Health Platform really takes advantage of the more advanced metrics. The system is used in the research of medical professionals across a range of fields like cardiology and neurology, which depend on the advanced data analytics software for long-term patient monitoring. Normal resolutioners might not need that much information in the short term, but in the long run it can give an in-depth look into the internal systems that make them tick.
Price: starting at $169. Apps available for iOS and Android.
Athos is smart clothing designed to fine-tune its wearer’s athletic performance to the highest possible level. It can be a full-body system, with shirts and leggings available, which house sensors integrated into the fabric that feed into a core device located on the sternum and thigh.
The sensors in the clothing don’t just track the general motion of the body they pinpoint individual movements and track the exertion of the major upper and lower body muscle groups. The system provides real-time biometric tracking, which is then fed to the connected mobile app to give real-time feedback on how the muscles of the wearer and working throughout the exercise.
This ultra-tailored feedback can give wearers (and their personal trainers) guidance to adjust training techniques to get the most out of their muscles. Athos isn’t for casual wearers this type of information is best in the hands of experts looking to push already elite exercisers over the top.
Price: starting at $348. App for iOS only.
The PUSH Band helps users and their trainers do one thing: make major gains in the weight room. The highly individualized tracking tool gives lift-specific performance feedback and insights. It’s used by multiple professional and college athletic programs, so it has possibly the highest seal of approval.
The Band is strapped across the user’s forearm and paired with an iOS app, which gives trainers immediate metrics like bar speed, which helps to establish a baseline for velocity-based training, a popular weight-room plan. Additional tools help to establish 1-rep max lift levels and other baseline measures which help to track progress.
Again, the PUSH Band is tech that’s designed for advanced training plans, so it’s not for beginners. Once you have a dedicated trainer who really knows his or her stuff, it’s an additional tool to take a high level of weight room performance and push it to even greater heights.
Price: $289. App for iOS only.
Unlike the other items on this list, Stealth is focused on just one area of the body: the core. The system takes one of the most basic training exercises, the plank, and turns it into a full-on gaming experience.
The training platform is designed to turn the user’s body into a joystick of sorts, with a rotational design for a full range of motion from the plank position. A slot houses a smartphone running the accompanying app, which uses the phone’s built-in motion sensor to play an assortment of games designed to work up a sweat.
Right now, Stealth is raising funds on Kickstarter for a launch in the middle of next year. It’s an interesting concept that someone on a year-long fitness kick might want to add to their training repertoire. Playing video games for a six-pack is definitely one of the most attractive training plans out there.
Price: $299. App available for iOS and Android.