While we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, rules about going out have loosened up. But experts agree that the best way to protect yourself is to limit your interactions with other people. If you like to exercise in a gym, that could be difficult—and the main reason why you don’t want to go.
But there are lots of apps that can help you get a complete workout at home, and Health & Fitness is one of the most popular categories on the App Store. If you take a look at the listings, you’ll see that nearly every app is free—or so it would seem. In reality, the vast majority of fitness apps are only free to download but require an in-app purchase subscription be useful. Many don’t even function at all without one.
That’s money you may not want to or be able to spend right now. So we put together this list of five fitness apps that can help you stay healthy at home. One is totally free, and the others offer in-app purchases but have plenty to offer without spending a penny.
Back in 2013, a paper published by the American College of Sports Medicine investigated a special circuit-training routine for maximum full-body benefit in minimal time using only body-weight exercises. It was featured in The New York Times, and before you knew it, the seven-minute workout was born.
These days you’ll see a lot of seven-minute workout apps. Our favorite is probably Seven. It’s going to aggressively push a “7 Club” membership at you, but just hit the X button in the upper right to ignore the pitch and you can use the simple, clear, attractive app to perform basic seven-minute workouts all you want. The subscription gives you the ability to set custom workouts and unlocks a lot more exercises, but you can do things like schedule workout reminders and connect the Apple’s Health app for free.
The Nike Run Club app is very popular among runners, but Nike has another nice workout app, Nike Training Club, that offers tons of exercise routines you can do at home. Some require modest equipment like dumbbells, but many do not.
There’s a nice Apple Watch companion app that helps guide you through your workout, too. Nike recently the premium membership (usually $14.99 per month) free “for good,” according to the version history for the app in the App Store. The membership gives you access to 4-6 week programs, some nutrition and wellness guide stuff, and on-demand classes.
One nice thing about Nike’s free access premium access: You don’t have to sign up for a “free” subscription that you’ll forget to cancel and be billed for later. Nike just unlocked the free content for everyone.
The FitOn website highlights its free workouts, but there’s a pretty expensive $69.99 per year FitOn Pro subscription they want you to buy (it occasionally sells at a discounted price). Ignore it. It gives you some meal plans, recipes, and premium music, but you don’t need any of that.
Enter your birthday, height, weight, desired exercise frequency, and goal, and FitOn will set you up with a whole fitness class regimen. Each workout is a guided video class with a trainer, and you can link your Apple Watch to see your heart rate overlaid on it.
There are tons of on-demand workouts in a bunch of categories along with regularly-scheduled live classes you can tune in to. There really is a whole lot on offer in the free tier; this is a rare example of an app that seems to treat its free tier as the main product and not just a demo for the subscription service.
Here we have a rare fitness app that is free! Really, truly free. No in-app purchases, no premium tier, no merch to buy… free.
You have a list of various Yoga routines to choose from, like “beginner yoga,” “butt toner,” “inner peace,” or “core blast.” Each one starts with a list of the poses you’ll need to know: If you have no idea how to do one, tap on it for a written guide along with a clear YouTube video to show you the way.
When the workout begins, you’re treated to sedated music and a pleasant voice that walks you through the poses, with basic diagrams and a timer to let you know how long you’ll have to hold it.
There are a few ads—gotta pay the bills somehow—but they never interrupt a session with one. If traditional workouts aren’t your thing and you just need to make some time each day to stretch, flex, and breathe the stress away, Yoga for Beginners is just the thing.
Working out at home is one thing, but if you don’t eat right you’re not going to be healthy, and the best way to eat right is to keep a food diary. Under Armour bought MyFitnessPal back in 2015 and has done a great job maintaining it as the best food diary app in the business.
A huge user-submitted database of foods helps you add home cooked meals and fast food items, and the reliable bar code scanner will effortlessly add nearly any packaged food. You can set goals (like “lose 1 pound per week”) to set calorie goals and see fat, carbs, and protein consumed each day.
A premium membership is required to see the breakdown by meal, set different goals for different days, or follow one of the many meal plans. It also removes ads. But as a simple and reliable way to make sure you’re not eating too much junk and have a healthy mix of carbs, fats, and proteins, the free version is all you need.
I have written professionally about technology for my entire adult professional life - over 20 years. I like to figure out how complicated technology works and explain it in a way anyone can understand.