Our smartphones, we’re told, are ruining our lives. You’ve no doubt heard the news stories by now (or, more likely, scrolled past the headlines on your phone) about how they’re destroying our cognitive resources, disrupting our sleep, giving us bent backs and kinked necks, and causing us to become anxious, depressed, antisocial weaklings while we obsessively scroll through our social media feeds 100 times a day.
But it’s not the phones themselves that are the problem, so much as how we use them. In fact, a host of health and fitness apps can help you to get fitter, stronger, leaner, looser and healthier than ever before — to fight back, in other words, against the creeping physical and mental ills of the Information Age.
Taking advantage of today’s information-rich environment, they focus on putting personalized, coach- or trainer-built workouts at your fingertips, so you can get better results faster, no matter your preferred fitness modality. Check out our 12 favorites below, and start working toward your best body ever in 2021.
Editor's note: A lot of these apps offer a limited free version (or brief free trials), but for best results you almost invariably need to upgrade to some sort of paid membership, so that's what we focused on with the pricing info.
You don't garner 400,000-plus ratings on the App store (average score: 4.9 out of 5) without being one hell of a download. While it certainly helps to pair with a Peloton bike or treadmill — as thousands of this brand's most fervent fans do — the Peloton app alone grants you access to loads of awesome live and on-demand strength, running, cycling, yoga and HIIT workouts, many requiring minimal equipment. Of course Peloton is probably best known for its charismatic instructors and competitive leaderboards, qualities that helped its popularity only grow during the pandemic. Call it a cult if you want — or join up and get fit AF.
The best ad for Centr may be the sterling physique of its creator, Chris Hemsworth, a.k.a Thor. And much like the mythical Mjolnir, this thing delivers, personalizing a meal plan, training regimen and mind-body routine that keeps you on steady path toward success. The verdict from our reviewer? "Centr is perfect for those who need someone else to take the wheel on a holistic fitness and wellness plan, whether you’re just getting started or already have a regimen. I definitely recommend it if you’re looking to begin a fun, versatile and reliable program that’s easy to implement into your daily life."
Price: $29.99/month, $20/month for 3 months or $119.99/year
Nike Training Club
The Nike Training Club offers hundreds of free workouts from yoga to stretching to strength to speed. The app's been crushing it for more than a decade, part of why we dubbed it a Standard in the pages of our own magazine. Even better? The premium elements — handpicked elite trainers, four- to six-week courses, recipes, strategies and more — used to cost $14.99/month or $119.99/year. But Nike began offering them for free last March in response to the pandemic — and later extended that sweet deal indefinitely.
Best for Beginners
Debuting to much fanfare just last month, Apple Fitness+ boasts a smooth interface, high production values and a diverse group of world-class trainers. Our own reviewer is impressed with the ease of use, ability to choose your own favorite Apple Music and the fun, at times challenging routines. The accessibility is a mixed blessing: while veterans may feel underserved, newer gym rats can jump in and start making gains right away. Note: you do need an Apple Watch and some other Apple device to use Apple Fitness+.
Price: $9.99/month or $79.99/year
Best for Weightlifting
Using AI, Fitbod handles the heavy lifting of workout planning, so you can focus on, well, the heavy lifting. Based on your past workouts, it develops a plan that’ll push your limits based on your goals, preferences, struggles and available equipment. Then it guides you through each exercise (telling you weight, reps and sets) and even adjusts according to muscles you want to target and your recovery state. Plus, like a personal trainer, the more iron you pump, the better it gets at helping you grab the gains you want.
Price: $9.99/per month or $59.99/per year
Best for Quick-Hit Workouts
When you’re looking to knock out a quick, effective full-body workout, HIIT is hard to beat. Keelo recommends intense, fast-paced workouts — each tweaked, based on your recent history, to hit compound muscle groups that are being ignored — that last between seven and 20 minutes. There’s a mix of bodyweight and free weight workouts, so you can stick to a three-a-week routine at home or on the road and still get results.
Price: Free, but Keelo Premium unlocks loads of additional features and workouts for $12.99/month, $30.99/3 months or $93.99/year
Best for Good Listeners
While this app now offers video, it started as audio-only, and continues to be ideal for delivering workout instructions through your ear buds. Aaptiv lets you pick from more than 2,500 (and counting) on-demand workouts covering everything from stretching and yoga to boxing and weightlifting. Select the type of workout you want, the kind of music you like and how much time you have, then get ready to sweat it out.
Price: $14.99/month or $99.99/year
Best for the Time-Pressed
Sworkit’s customized programs allow you to fit a solid, targeted workout into whatever time you have, whether that’s a trainer-recommended 40 minutes or 4 minutes between episodes of Cobra Kai. Simply choose the kind of routine you want and how many minutes you have, and it outputs a video-guided, precision-timed, sports scientist-approved workout that’ll help you trim fat, pack on muscle or just loosen up, excuses be damned.
Price: $9.99/month or $59.99/year
Best for On-Demand Workouts
Following the trend spearheaded by Peloton, NEOU live streams workouts and stores hundreds in the app so that you never get bored. Top-notch trainers bring the knowledge and enthusiasm so you can stay focused on getting the best possible pump. You can test out a variety of modalities from HIIT and Bootcamp to boxing and core — even mobility and dance. Follow your favorite trainer or mix it up to keep going and growing.
Price: $12.99/month or $49.99/year
Best for Cyclists
Yes, you can use Strava for lots of activities, including running, swimming and CrossFit. But the brand is best known for helping cyclists track their rides, from distance and speed to elevation gained and calories burned. The app also offers the world's largest trail network, monthly challenges and the infamous Segment Leaderboad, which allows you to compete with friends and foes on popular stretches of road and trail. No wonder some cycling buddies are convinced that if you didn't turn on Strava, you didn't really ride.
Price: $7.99/month or $59.99/year
Nike Run Club
Best for Runners
From the company hell-bent on reviving American distance running comes the Nike Run Club, an innovative app that, in addition to tracking your runs via GPS, provides audio-guided runs for newbies and personalized coaching plans fit for hardcore racers. Each workout helps you build strength, speed and endurance, and there are motivational tools— from weekly challenges to Spotify playlists tailored to the pace of each run —to keep you cranking toward a PR.
Best for All-Around Health
Like a personal trainer and nutritionist in one, 8fit creates custom exercise and meal plans based on your goals, current stats and fine-tuned preferences. It asks probing questions, like how many weekly workouts you want, how much variety you require in a diet and how you prefer to meal prep. Then it spits out an achievable, step-by-step plan — with at-home HIIT workouts and nutritionist-created recipes — to become your healthiest self.