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Study: Fitness apps result in more frequent exercise, lower BMIs

Fitness, Nutrition
Feb 8, 2018

Here are six apps to help you get started on the path towards good health

Are you having trouble sticking to a diet or exercise routine? It may be time to call for reinforcements in the form of an app downloaded on your smartphone.

A recent study by the Journal of Medical Internet Research found participants who used fitness apps were much more active compared to nonusers and even had a lower body mass index. The study concluded exercise app users were more likely to exercise during their leisure time compared to those who do not use exercise apps.

“Apps help bring awareness and help with self-monitoring,” says Bentley Danello, RD, LD, education specialist in disease management and registered dietitian at St. Joseph’s/Candler. “It keeps you accountable. Apps can remind you to get your steps in. They can notify you if you’ve been sitting too long or to log your food.”

There are more than 1,000 exercise and diet apps available for download on mobile devices. They include a range of features from tracking exercise activity to providing motivational messages to monitoring your heart rate. Picking the right one for you doesn’t have to be difficult. The key is to find one that works best for you and stick with it.

“I always tell people, ‘If it works for you, then keep using it,’” Danello says.

To help you get started, here are six of the more commonly used fitness apps available on iPhone and Android:

1. MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal is Danello’s favorite, and she recommends it to the majority of her clients. The app keeps track of both diet and exercise. Its interface is easy to use and includes a step and calorie counter. The app’s database has more than five million foods, a nutrition scanner and a recipe importer. The apps ability to quickly track food consumption and exercise helps users balance their calorie intake daily with just a few simple steps.

“A lot of times it’s shocking how many calories are in the foods you are eating. MyFitnessPal counts calories for you without having to look it up elsewhere. It especially helps if you eat out a lot, and the recipe import helps home cooks as well,” Danello says.

2. Sworkit

Sworkit stands for Simply Work It and is idea for those who do not like to work out in the gym. The app offers more than 200 types of exercises ranging from standard workout to customized routines. Users pick the length of their workout, areas to target and any other needs or limitations. The versatility of this app not only prevents your body from getting used to a specific routine but it helps users from getting bored. Additionally, Sworkit can sync with MyFitnessPal to record your exercise and calories lost.


If you are a gym-rat or find your motivation to exercise by paying for a gym membership then you may want to consider JEFIT. JEFIT is a workout tracker gym log for your phone. It enables you to track your workout routine, including weight and repetitions on each machine, as well as rest time. You also can graph your body measurements as you progress. If you are new to the gym, JEFIT offers more than 60 routines or access a database of more than 1,300 exercises for weight lifting and cardio machines.

4. RunKeeper

Another great app for cardio workouts is RunKeeper. Whether you run, walk or any other physical activity, this app helps you plan your route to get there. You can build, save and discover new routes with GPS to change up your routine. The app also keeps you motivated by offer challenges, rewards and sharing your progress with friends.

5. Lose It!

This free app is great for all you calorie counters out there. It gives you a daily calorie allotment to stay at or below each day. The app tracks your daily food intake by scanning barcodes, searching for food or manually entering calories for each of your meals. The app also logs your exercise, which will increase your calorie total for the day.

6. MyPlate Calorie Counter

If you need a little more help than just counting calories you may want to give MyPlate Calorie Counter a try. Created by LIVESTRONG, in addition to counting calories and other nutrition, the app offers an eight-week meal plan that takes the stress out of eating healthy. It suggests healthy snacks, meals and recipes in an idea calorie range for men and women. MyPlate is great for all types of dietary preferences as it offers tips for omnivores, vegetarians, vegans and those who are gluten-free.

These apps have even more to offer. Additionally, there are hundreds of apps with specific themes, such as yoga, training for a marathon or meditation. Start searching your app store today to see what works best for you.

And if you want to skip the download, Danello says to not ignore features that are already on so many smartphones, including pedometers and heart rate monitors. If you have trouble remembering to exercise, set a reminder on your phone. Fitbits and Apple Watches also have great health features to take advantage of.  

“Use technology to your advantage,” Danello says. “Instead of having to remember to do things, you can set alerts on your phone to track what you are supposed to be doing or remind you to exercise, eat healthy or not sit at your desk for so long. Your phone can serve as a great ally towards good health.”

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