Craving a pizza but worried about calories? What if you could just ask a dietitian how many slices you can eat safely without putting on weight? Or how about changing your workout routine without spending too much? Thanks to a host of health-based mobile apps, you can now have your health and fitness queries answered right on your smartphone.
“I have been using health apps to record my running and cycling distances regularly. When I recently wanted to try some new workout, I used Fiticket for two months. It was great, especially for someone who gets bored with the same workout every day,” says Mitali Pinto.
The 22-year-old fitness enthusiast from Mumbai has tried swimming, gymming, the martial art form Kalaripayattu and aerial yoga through her Fiticket subscription. This app helps you choose between workouts. You need to pay a fee—you can take a subscription for a month and choose a limited number of classes at select gyms.
Other apps can help you do your workout at home, and some even let you track your progress.
Book your workout
Someone like Pinto, who wants to explore different ways of staying in shape, might find it useful to try out classes rather than buy an expensive, year-long gym membership. “The money you pay for your membership depends on your bargaining power. If you are not sure about liking a workout or being in the same city next month, taking a long-term membership might not be a great idea,” says Devi Prasad Biswal, founder and chief executive officer, Book Your Game (BYG). The BYG app is trying to build a network of fitness providers and fitness enthusiasts, and by tapping into their combined bargaining power, the app offers affordable pricing for gym memberships.
BYG’s dynamic pricing helps you book an hour-long session with gyms and fitness studios when there isn’t that much of a crowd (an afternoon session for a zumba class might be cheaper than an evening session in the same studio), while the Workout Now section lets you book a workout session for trial. And unlike a gym’s free trial class, after which you are flooded with calls asking you to purchase a membership, a workout booked through BYG won’t come with pesky calls.
Besides BYG, apps such as Gymer and Fitternity also let you pay only for the workout you choose to do.
Apps like ClassHop and Fiticket have a slightly different format. Here, you can buy a subscription starting from Rs.999 a month and attend a limited number of classes with the gyms and studios the apps have signed up with. For example, you can choose to attend three yoga classes, four swimming sessions and two gym workouts in a month, all for Rs.999. You can keep renewing the subscription.
While this model might help you break the monotony of daily workouts and save money, it may not always work for you. Many of these apps are location-specific, so they may have signed up with more workout partners in one part of the city than another. For example, if you are based in Mumbai’s Bandra, you might find more options for workouts than, say, in Chembur.
These apps currently cater to Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Kolkata and Jaipur.
Record your progress
Whether it is a run or a cycle ride, a CrossFit WOD (Workout of the Day) or a weightlifting goal, several apps can help you record your workout. This helps you track your progress over a period of time. The apps sync to your wearables and even let you share your workout data with friends.
“I have been using Runkeeper for more than a year now and I have never felt the need to buy an expensive gadget like a TomTom or Garmin (smart wearables). Runkeeper, however, doesn’t have a heart-rate monitor, so it may not be apt for someone who wants to take up running professionally,” says Vijay Kamath, an administration manager with Tata Consultancy Services in Mumbai. Kamath uses Runkeeper to track his runs while travelling and during marathons, and finds it reliable.
There is a lot to choose from in this category — you just need to make up your mind on the workout you want to track. You can try Nike+ Running and Runkeeper (runs); Strava and MapMyRide (bike rides); WOD Log (CrossFit); Log for Pilate Yoga Workout (pilates); FitNotes (gym workouts); and StrongLifts 5x5 (weightlifting).
Learn the moves
If you do not have the time to go to the gym, there are apps that can help you choose a workout using simple equipment. These offer a combination of workouts based on age, health and weight, and even let you choose the intensity of the workout.
“I find the Nike+ Training Club (NTC) app helpful because the plan I got was based on what I needed to work on—my strength. There is variety in the workouts as well, and I can use it anywhere, without equipment,” says Shaila Bhat, a zumba fitness instructor at Bengaluru’s Tribe Fitness Club. Bhat is especially impressed with NTC’s packaging—it comes complete with audio and how-to videos. But she does point out that while the exercises may seem easy, someone who has never tried working out before should see a trainer to learn the correct technique and avoid injuries.
No amount of working out can make you fit unless you follow a healthy diet. Several apps can help you track your daily calorie intake, or even suggest a diet plan for you. MyPlate, from the health and fitness website Livestrong.com, offers users daily nutrition charts and nutrient goals.
The Bulk Up! Protein Tracker provides nutrition data on 350,000 commonly eaten foods, has a food log and even a bar-code scanner to check the calorie value for any product you may pick up at the grocery store.
On the Truweight app, you can purchase customized meal plans, a superfoods kit (including wheatgrass powder, bitter-gourd soup, quinoa, dal, dosa) and one free consultation with a nutritionist. HealthifyMe offers calorie counts even for Indian foods like upma and puri-bhaji, which generally don’t find a place in the internationally designed apps.
“While our app is free to download and use, we also have a premium (paid) version where you can get consultation from our nutritionist and trainer. The plan is created keeping in mind your weight-loss goal. We encourage routine healthy eating rather than a drastic weight-loss diet,” says Nikhil Moorjani, head of marketing and sales, HealthifyMe.
While keeping a calorie count might seem easy, following a diet may not be suitable if it is not done keeping in mind the person’s health history. Swati Bhushan, chief clinical nutritionist at the Fortis Hospital in Navi Mumbai, says: “Any app that doesn’t customize the diet plan based on the body composition and exercise and stress levels cannot work. These apps will also not take into account clinical parameters like lipid profile, blood sugar, haemoglobin, etc.” According to Bhushan, “It makes sense for someone to try out these apps, to become more aware of what they are eating, but for a proper consultation, I would always suggest visiting a nutritionist.”
While none of these apps can replace a traditional trainer or dietitian, they are helping people make a start on health and fitness.