fitness appsThe future of your health is at your fingertips – literally. So long as you have a smartphone and a desire to get fit, there’s a nifty little app out there makers will claim is ideal for you and your fitness goals.

You want to eat better, lose weight, track movement throughout the day and map your progress? How about train for a 10K or work on those six-pack abs? You’ll find plenty of apps – many free ones, even – that can help get you there.

According to a recent study commissioned by Citrix, more than half of all health-related apps downloaded these days are fitness apps. So if you opt for a workout companion with Internet connectivity and a touchscreen, you’re in good company.

But regardless of how helpful and informative a fitness app can be, downloading it is nowhere near half the battle. Like a gym membership, nabbing that perfect fitness app can offer an initial jolt of empowerment, but this feeling can fade quickly if it’s never used. Even the ideal app, in other words, still requires a good level of personal motivation.

Fortunately, a few savvy fitness app developers have identified this challenge and are doing something about it.

Some strive to make the process of working out more fun, while others plug users into a network of people who motivate and offer positive peer pressure. Still others have uncovered ways to pay users in some way, shape or form for meeting their fitness goals.
According to Jessica Matthews, an exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise, this falls in line with the current thinking of many of today’s fitness instructors, personal trainers, and even physical therapists. Turning exercise into a fun and competitive activity, she said, has proven to raise the level of motivation and compliance by those seeking to get fit.

“We are attempting more ‘play’ opportunities as opposed to working out, basically getting people to move and have fun while they are doing it,” Matthews said, pointing out the fitness instructors today are encouraged to include more game play and competition with both group and one-on-one exercise regimens.

So if you’re a fitness app user (or potential user) who could use some additional coaxing, here are a few of the top fitness apps that bring the fun and motivate:

zombies, runFor the Gamer

The Walk: Turn a routine stroll into a thrilling adventure where you can “save the world” … by walking long distances, of course. Choose an episode, follow the storyline to your destination and, as each step is tracked, follow the clues.

Zombies, Run! 3: Turn your daily run into missions to save the human race during a zombie apocalypse! This app tracks your run while directing you from virtual zombies and toward “supplies” you need to accomplish your latest mission. Yes, this is a real app, and it’s quite popular.

For the Social Butterfly

Teemo: This app turns working out into both a team sport and an adventure. The app will connect you with a network of like-minded “friends” where, together, you work to achieve one of 10 adventures across the globe, relay-style – from hiking the Inca Trail to climbing Everest.

Strava Cycling: More than a simple cycling app, Strava Cycling lets you connect with other cyclists and challenge them (and them you) to rides that will push you harder. The app honors you whenever you set a personal record, and you can support your friends while they ride toward their own goals.

Fitocracy: Want to be part of a dedicated community of fitness enthusiasts? Fitocracy strives to provide motivation by introducing you to a world of fitness coaches and others from a variety of fitness backgrounds. In this world, you can enter strength training, cardio and nutrition challenges (on your own or in a group) that will gain you points … oh, and optimal health.

Cody: This app was developed so you’ll never have to get fit alone. Connect with a fitness community of current and new friends where you can share and discover workouts – videos, photos and instructions via text. Cody provides you with your own cheering section where friends can like, comment on and offer words of support for one another’s workout activity.

For the Incentive-Minded

Pact: Put your own money on the line with this app, which allows you to pledge a number of workout days against a set amount of cash. Pay for each day you miss, and get paid for each time you complete a workout. The ultimate goal, of course, is to improve your level of fitness without blowing a lot of dough.

EveryMove: Turn your every fitness move into points that can earn you rewards from retailers that value a healthy lifestyle. EveryMove will seamlessly connect with various fitness-tracking apps like MapMyFitness, Nike apps, Runkeeper, etc.

nexerciseCharity Miles: Sure, you can pay yourself in cash or earn rewards from retailers, but why not put your workout to good use for the benefit of others? With Charity Miles, every mile you run, bike or walk will be matched monetarily by a corporate sponsor who will donate to a charity on your behalf.

Nexercise: This app combines incentives found in both EveryMove and Charity Miles, allowing you to earn rewards like free samples, discounts and gift cards, or donate to charity based on the monetization of your workout.

While today’s fitness apps can do amazing things, they cannot accurately assess your level of health prior to starting a new workout regimen. Always consult your personal physician and/or physical therapist before starting any new workout routine. He or she can help you select a fitness plan (and app) that’s ideal for your fitness needs, goals and personal lifestyle.

Resources

HealthDay: Smartphone Apps Can Make Working Out More Fun

Well+GOOD: Three Fitness Game Apps You’ll Really Want to Download

Mobi Health News: Half of Mobile Health App Users are Using Fitness Apps