Smartphones are wonderful things. They give us detailed driving directions, provide us with endless hours of bird-flinging fun, allow us to carry all our music in our pocket and they can make phone calls too – even if the average user does spend more time wiping out green pigs than calling their family.
But one thing our touch-screen treasures are becoming increasingly popular for is turning us into fitness gods. Smartphone shipments went up 36% in the fourth quarter of 2012, to a staggering 219 million handsets, so it seems more of us than ever have the potential to change our lives in the palm of our hand.
With millions of apps available across the different smartphone platforms, it can be overwhelming to decide what to pick, so we’ve run down our top five essential apps for a healthier lifestyle.
1. MyFitnessPal (iPhone, Android) – FREE
The great thing about MyFitnessPal is that is tracks all the food you eat, as well as accounting for calories burned by any exercise you do. Any time you eat something, just whip out your phone and find it in the app’s staggering online catalog – it adds the correct number of calories as well as nutritional information.
If what you want isn’t on there you can add it yourself, allowing other users to find that information in the future. You can scan barcodes for speed, add friends via Facebook for motivation, and track your calorie intake and weight loss through weekly line graphs and bar charts.
2. Superfoods HD (iPhone, iPad) – 69p/99c
We’re all constantly told of the amazing benefits of superfoods like blueberries, spinach, and gooseberries but how do we go about effectively fitting them into our diets? Instead of scouring the internet for hours on end, and almost certainly reading conflicting advice, just give this handy little app for iPhone and iPad a download.
As well as giving you detailed nutritional information on a range of foods, Superfoods HD also gives you over 200 recipes you can use to seamlessly weave in these ingredients into your diet.
3. RunKeeper (iPhone, Android) – FREE
One simple mistake people make when they start an exercise regime is going in too strong – you might need to get in shape, but you’re not going to get their quicker by trying to run five miles straight away. Pacing yourself and gradually working up to long-distance running over several weeks is the best way to build your stamina and overall fitness.
With RunKeeper you can design customer interval workouts to pace your runs and follow audio cues which let you know when to slow down to a jog or to pick up the pace. The app also has integrated music functions to let you listen to playlists and your phone’s GPS to plan out running routes, as well as tracking the distance you’ve run and the calories you’ve burned.
4. Sleep Cycle (Apple Store; iPhone) – 69p/99c
The persistent, inane bleeping of your alarm clock probably feels like an awful way to start your day – and that’s because it is. All too often the ear-piercing scream of a digital alarm clock can set you up for a day of nodding off at your desk and a bad mood.
Sleep Cycle cleverly uses your phone’s accelerometer to detect your movements and gauge how deep asleep you’re in. Your phone will then gradually wake you up over 30 minutes during a preset ‘wake-up window’ when you’re sleeping lightly for a much more refreshing start to your day.
5. My Last Cigarette (Apple Store; iPhone) – 69p/99c
Quitting smoking may be one of the hardest lifestyle changes you can possibly make. The addiction to getting your daily fix of smoke and nicotine is firmly embedded in your mind, both psychologically and chemically. Focussing both on the positives of quitting and the negatives of starting smoking again are great ways to help you stick to your commitment to stop.
All you need to do is enter some personal details about your age, general health, and smoking habits and the app provides motivators in real-time for you. From how much money you’ve saved to how much your health has improved, the app constantly reminds you how much better off you are having quit smoking.