11 of the best workout apps for people looking to build healthier routines

Whether you work at home, don’t like the idea of working out in front of other people, or don’t have the time and money to hire a personal trainer, you don’t have to abandon the idea of working out altogether. There are lots of roads to personal fitness, and some can be found right from your phone. Even better: you don’t need expensive equipment to use fitness apps either.

Whether you want to go for daily runs, do strength training, try easy yoga poses, or engage in HIIT (high intensity interval training), there is undoubtedly an app to help you do it — and some will even help you eat more nutritiously and meal plan along the way too.

That said, all fitness apps are not created equal and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the myriad of options out there (Just type in fitness in your app store and see just how many options pop up.) Plus, since many involve subscriptions, the last thing you want to do is try out a bunch (and spend a lot of money) before giving up because you can’t find what’s right for you.

So what should you look for in a workout app? Here are some factors to consider. (There’s a lot more guidance on how much you should pay and other factors to consider after our picks as well.)

What’s motivating you?

It can take a while to reach your fitness goals, so you need something that makes you decide to hang in there and stick with your new routine. So before you jump in, consider what keeps you motivated and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you want an app that sends you daily reminders?

  • Do you need an app that has a social element, like the ability to share info with friends (or even compete with them)?

  • Do you need a community to encourage you and ask questions?

  • Do you want a fitness coach to check in with?

  • Do you want something that allows you to unlock achievements?

  • Do you want something that tracks your progress towards a bigger goal?

  • Do you need a subscription to make you feel invested?

  • Or does the idea of giving back (with an app that donates to charity for every mile you run, walk, or cycle) feel more motivating to you?

Whatever it is that makes you stick with your workouts, that’s the feature you need to prioritize in your search for the ideal workout app for you.


Of course, it goes without saying that you need an app that works with your phone. But that’s not the only tech requirement. Some apps will also take advantage of everything your phone has to offer, like its GPS or accelerometer to track your progress. Other apps will also use your camera to help you make sure that you’re using the correct form for an exercise.

In addition, some apps integrate or pair with other devices or apps, such as Apple watches, Fitbits, or footstep trackers. If you have one of those devices, make sure you find one that works with it. If you’ve paid for exercise equipment, look for apps that will offer ideas for how to use those machines. Or, conversely, if you don’t have any exercise equipment, look for apps that make recommendations for how to use the furniture in your home or just your body weight instead.

Remember, the best app is ultimately about personal preferences

There are good apps and there are bad ones. But ultimately, when you’re picking from a collection of fitness apps, the “best” one will depend on your personal preferences, goals, and lifestyle.

So, to make your search a little easier, here are some of our favorites based on goal, experience level, and exercise type:

How much should I pay for a workout app?

Some apps can offer fairly expensive subscriptions, but just because they cost money doesn’t mean they’re worth it. Money doesn’t always equal quality. (And at a certain point, if the cost gets too high, you might want to just consider a gym membership.)

You can get some very good workout apps that cost under $10 a month and they’ll come with all the tracking capabilities, personalized routines, and workout videos you need — especially if you’re just starting out or don’t have a lot of room in the budget. In fact, some are even free.

That said, while free sounds amazing, it’s worth remembering that most great apps do require a subscription of some kind. Free apps (or free versions of apps that offer subscriptions) are often limited in what they offer, have lots of bugs, or are weighed down by ads that get in the way of the user’s experience.

Consider your current fitness level

Not all apps are geared at novices, and the last thing you want is to pay money for an app that will ultimately overwhelm you or make you give up because the workouts are simply too difficult for you.

Instead, you’ll want to be honest with yourself and examine where you’re at, right now, with your fitness. Then, look for an app that meets you where you’re at. An app that teaches you the basics and shows you how to do the exercise correctly is worth its weight in gold because it will show you how to do the exercises with good form, not overwhelm you, and it will keep you motivated because you’ll feel your progress.

If you are a beginner with a strong desire to grow, consider getting an app that isn’t just aimed at beginners. Instead, get one that grows with you, offering a range of exercises and routines that get progressively more difficult as you advance. This will give you something to aim for in your fitness journey and will keep you invested for the long term.

Think about your fitness goals

People decide to work out for a myriad of different reasons: Maybe you want some easy stretching exercises that will help you relax, maybe you want to build muscle, or maybe you want to just get healthier.

Whatever your reason is, it will affect what app you choose and the fitness app that works best for you. Some are family-friendly, allowing you to work out with the whole family, while others are very clearly aimed at people who want to lose weight with cardio or HIIT. Others are all about building muscle. So before you begin your search, think about what you want the fitness app to help you do.

For example, do you want to track your weight loss? If so, consider an app that doesn’t just give you workouts, but one that also offers nutritional advice, meal tracking, or meal planning tips so you can use a multi-pronged approach to reach your weight loss goals. You might also want to consider an app that gives you access to a trainer, coach or nutritionist who can help customize your workouts and weight loss goals. (Access to trainers and coaches can also be helpful for beginners when you’re learning correct form.)

Meanwhile, if you’re just looking for workouts that help you feel better in your own body, perhaps you want to consider a lower-intensity workout app or a yoga app that will focus more on stretching and relaxation instead of more intense cardio or weight routines.

Similarly, if you’re training for a marathon, you’ll likely be more interested in a distance tracking app to record your runs, your timing, and your progress. But if you’re looking to build muscle, you’ll want an app that focuses mostly on strength training exercises.

Your lifestyle matters, too

Lots of people start an exercise routine, but then end up giving it up because they just can’t find the time to work out. Obviously, apps that help you work out at home (vs. the gym) can help with that a little, since you no longer have to drive somewhere. Plus, a lot of apps require little to no specialized equipment to do a workout routine.

However, that’s not the end of the story. If you find it difficult to carve out an hour in your busy workday, you’re never going to try that new 60-minute workout routine recommended by your fitness app. Similarly, if you have a family to take care of, you’re not going to do a routine that you can’t do with your children in the same room.

That’s why it’s important to pick an app that matches your lifestyle. For example, if you’re super busy from morning to night, opt for an app that has a whole library of short workouts, like those that can be done in seven minutes or less. Or, if you have kids at home with you all day, look for a family-friendly app with exercises for kids too so you can all work out together.

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation