8 Popular Health and Fitness Apps for 2018

Co-author: Ellie McLachlan

Tracking your progress with a fitness or health app on your phone can be a great first step towards a ‘healthier’ you. So we investigated some of the best health and fitness apps currently available.

Finding suitable fitness apps that can enable you to track and improve your health and wellbeing can help you towards meeting your goals. As the health conscious overlap with technology, there are more and more options available, with everything from stress management apps to running trackers and even medical appointment apps. 

After a bit of road testing by a few health-conscious Canstar team members, we’ve rounded up a few of the best health and fitness apps to help you on your way to achieving your goals.

1. Pacer

During last year’s ‘Steptember Challenge’ at Canstar, many of us used Pacer to track and record our daily steps. The tool was handy for seeing our daily goals for steps, record sport or gym exercises and compare individual performance against other team members within a group.  

The app is free to download on any mobile device and doesn’t require the additional purchase of a smartwatch, Fitbit or other hardware. 

Other cool features: 

  • You can sync steps and calories with the MyFitnessPal app (see more below). 
  • If you have an Apple device, the Pacer data syncs to the Health App. 
  • You can track your blood pressure, physical activity, BMI and weight. 
  • You can create plans and set daily goals for yourself, and compare that to a group of friends. 
  • The app tracks your metrics against standards provided by the World Health Organisation, American Heart Association and President’s Fitness Council. 

Pacer

2. MyFitnessPal

This app is free for download on any mobile device and offers a suite of tools to track your weight-loss journey, including daily food intake, calories, exercises and steps. 

One of the most popular features of this app though is the ability to quickly and easily enter your food consumption to keep track of calories going in, as well as log your burned calories for the day. This allows you to see how close you are to reaching your goal calorie intake and understand where you could potentially improve your health choices. 

Other great features include: 

  • A massive food database where you can select meals and see the calorie count. 
  • The barcode scanner allows you to scan purchased food items and log them in the app. 
  • You can track all the major nutrients including: calories, fat, protein, carbs, sugar, fibre, cholesterol and more. 
  • You can connect this app with several others including: Pacer, Apple Health, Fitbit, MapMyFitness, Runkeeper and many more. 

MyFitnessPal

 

The table below features a snapshot of extras policies on Canstar’s database with links to providers’ websites, sorted by lowest monthly premium. Please note the results are based on a female under 29 in NSW, with no pregnancy cover.

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3. HealthEngine

Sick of calling your doctor while at work to try to get an appointment? HealthEngine makes that dilemma a thing of the past with over 11,000 health practitioners available to book your next health appointment without making a call.

The free app allows you to book with doctors, dentists, physiotherapists, chiropractors and more in your local area. You can even connect HealthEngine app to your electronic My Health Record so you have quick access to all your health information in one place. 

Here are some other noteworthy features: 

  • Bookings made on the app are confirmed instantly. 
  • You can read real patient reviews about their experience and pricing. 
  • You can add your practice to favourites to save time on future bookings. 
  • View a picture of practitioners when choosing which doc you’d like to see. 
  • Get sent reminders on the day of your appointment, and some practices even allow you to ‘check in’ for appointments from the app. 

Health Engine

 

The table below features a snapshot of hospital & extras policies on Canstar’s database with links to providers’ websites, sorted by star rating. Please note the results are based on a male aged under 31 in NSW.

4. Strava

If you love getting outdoors to exercise, Strava could be the app for you. Strava uses GPS to let you record where you travel during every outdoor workout. Your home page feed enables you to easily see all your recent workouts in chronological order, as well as workouts and challenges posted by other users you follow.

The app is free to download on both iOS and Android and can sync up with your smartwatch or MyFitnessPal. This app could be great to help you stay motivated to get fit and join challenges with a group of friends.

Other features include: 

  • Track every outdoor workout including running, cycling, rowing and many other activities.
  • Set yourself goals – for each workout or overall – and keep track of all your stats.
  • Compete with and congratulate other Strava users.
  • Set up audio cues to have a motivating voice relaying your pace, distance and time. 

 Source: Apple App Store

 

 

5. Happify

Physical wellbeing isn’t the only health factor we should dedicate time to – how you feel matters too. Happify gives you a few handy tools and programs that can help with your emotional wellbeing, which can be particularlyhandy if you experience moments of stress or anxiety. 

The app is free to download and use, with the option to pay to upgrade to Happify Plus for more services. According to Happify, the tools in the app are actually developed by scientists and experts. 

Cool features include: 

  • Frequent users of Happyify reported an 86% increase in happiness, according to Happify. 
  • Engaging activities and games can help take your mind off things that may be creating stress. 

Happify

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6. Calm

Awarded Apple’s 2017 App of the Year on iPhone, Calm is an app that aims to help you relax, meditate and get better sleep. Calm offers guided meditations, breathing exercises, sleep stories and more.

The app is free to download and is available on both iOS and Android.

Cool features include:

  • Guided meditations on a variety of topics.
  • Various music stations to help you focus, relax or fall asleep.
  •  Expert-led masterclasses on health.

calm

 Source: Apple App Store

 

7. Runkeeper

If you like things a bit more fast-paced, Runkeeper could be a suitable tracker app for you. You can track your daily run with the GPS capability and set goals for distance, time or pace.

The app is free to download and can sync up with your smartwatch or MyFitnessPal to give you that extra nudge to stay on track. You can also  join challenges with a group of friends in the app to keep each other motivated.

Other features include:

  • Follow a training plan.
  • Save and discover new running routes with GPS in the app.
  • Set up audio cues to have a motivating voice relaying your pace, distance and time.
  • It’s not just for running – you can also add indoor cardio or gym workouts to keep a full exercise log.

Runkeeper

8. Plant Nanny

Maintaining adequate healthy water consumption can easily fall off our radar in our busy day-to-day lives, but it’s really important! And this is an app that makes tracking your daily water intake easy as pie. 

Plant Nanny is aiming to combine health with fun. If you want to keep the animated plant alive, you need to keep up with your daily cups of water to help it grow. 

Cool features include: 

  • The app has all the common cups for drink recording.
  • The general display of the app keeps you coming back – changing scene from day to night, various plants to care for and more.
  • You can see your water-drinking history and have your recommended daily water intake calculated for you.

Plant Nanny

 

How to find the right fitness or health apps for you

Even with the best intentions, many of us still fall of the wagon when it comes to following through with our health and fitness goals. In fact, a recent VicHealth study found that many health and wellbeing apps weren’t proving to be particularly effective for some people. 

But, finding the right apps could provide that little boost of assistance to aid in reaching your goals and keep you on track. 

We’ve come up with some tips on what to look for when searching for the most suitable fitness or health apps:

Avoid apps that claim to diagnose or treat a condition

Any kind of app that acts as a doctor or physician by diagnosing conditions or a level of fitness should not be accepted as the be all and end all. At the very least you should take their advice with a pinch of salt. If you’re looking for a concrete idea of your body’s wellbeing, visit a GP, not just Google. 

Medical Smartphone Scans

Pick an app that makes realistic promises

If you come across an app that claims you’ll be losing kilograms in days, or something similarly fanciful, that should raise a red flag; reaching your fitness goals can take a while and is all about making small, sustainable changes, not jumping at the first app that promises you something that sounds too good to be true! 

Apps that generally make more realistic claims include:

  • health apps with recipe guides for healthy eating;
  • training videos for sports like running, yoga, and boxing;
  • fitness tracker and calorie-counting apps.

Canstar Blue has a great guide on what to look for in a fitness tracker on their website. 

Research the developers

Find the name of the developer in the App store, and do some research of your own. Find out how reputable/well-known the developers are, whether they’ve developed any other apps, and how well those apps have been received. 

See if the app is endorsed by any health professionals, or at least if any health professionals were consulted during the development of the app. A good clue is if the app was developed by a hospital or medical university in conjunction with a health insurance fund or another health organisation. These types of organisations have a vested interest in getting the facts about healthy living right. 

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Give the app a trial period

Finding one app and deciding that’s the app you’re going to use, to the exclusion of all others for the foreseeable future, could exclude a range of great options. 

In the same way that you would take a gym up on a free trial before committing to a year’s membership, use the app for a week or two, see how you’re enjoying it and if it’s working for you. If not, find another app and repeat the process.

You might also want to experiment – if you have a smartwatch or fitness tracker – with using both apps on your smartphone and different apps on your smartwatch or fitness tracker.  

Side plug – did you know Canstar Blue researches and rates customer satisfaction in gyms around Australia? Find a gym near you that could help you stick to the goal you’ve set with your fitness apps. 

Fitness Tracking

Choose apps that use strategies based on research

VicHealth recommends you look for apps that use evidence-based strategies such as self-monitoring, goal setting, cues or push notifications, social support, and rewards for doing your workouts each week. Try to look for apps that use these strategies to encourage you, as they’ll most likely be more effective in helping you create healthy behaviours (or change unhealthy behaviours) than apps that don’t use them. 

At the end of the day, finding the best fitness apps or a good health app is about seeing past gimmicks and false (albeit exciting) claims and finding an app that does what it says on the tin, which is help you reach your fitness goals. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, health apps are merely a tool to be used by you on the road to your fitness goals; they can’t do the work for you. 

Does your health fund have a fitness app?

Some health funds design their own fitness or health apps to help their members lead healthier lives. Find out what your health fund offers, and whether you can use Extras Cover to claim back the cost of meeting your certain health and fitness goals. 

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