If you exercise regularly, chances are that you have probably strapped on your smartphone to listen to music at some point. You may have even texted friends or talked on your phone while you work out, though that actually dampers your training intensity and what you get out of a workout in contrast to listening to music.
But training with your smartphone can actually help you achieve your performance goals. Smartphones can also monitor your health, track your exercise progress and improve your workouts in unexpected ways. There’s an app for just about everything imaginable. Here are a few of them and some ways you use your smartphone to get the most out of any workout.
Map My Fitness and GPS
Every smartphone carries GPS, and you can use it to track your level of activity every day. Someone who is just starting to get in shape can check out an app like RunKeeper. For those more serious about their training, I recommend Map My Fitness. It uses GPS to track how far you run or cycle and also collects data on calories burned, distance and speed. It stores all of your data so you can track your progress over weeks and months. You can also set goals, and Map My Fitness will keep track of them let you know if you are falling behind.
You can share your fitness data with others and rank it to see how much you have accomplished compared to your friends. To do this, though, you need a strong mobile data connection, or a cell phone booster if you’re training in a remote area. Many exercise apps have features like this, because nothing encourages you to work harder than a little healthy competition. But you can choose to turn it off if you are worried about privacy.
Getting in shape is just as much about what you put in your body as what you put out in the gym. But if you have trouble managing your diet on your own, your smartphone can help.
Plenty of apps track the calories of the food you eat. One is Fast Food Calorie Lookup, which lists the nutritional value and calories of the food served in chain restaurants where you might choose to eat. Others keep track of the foods you buy at the grocery store and add up the calories they provide, letting you know if you are perhaps purchasing too much food during your weekly shopping trip.
In addition to calorie-counting apps, other apps recommend diets and monitor your food intake to keep you in compliance. Map My Fitness has some recommended weight loss plans and can track how well you are following them.
Tracking biometrics such as pulse, heart rate and stress level is now a more routine part of workouts. There’s even a smart shirt that tracks this data for you. But why buy a shirt when your smartphone can do it?
Many smartphones (e.g., those from Samsung) have built-in heart rate apps. You type in your personal medical data, then put your finger on the phone to get a reading. When you finish, you have a baseline heart rate that you can use to judge how hard you work out. If your phone lacks this built-in app, you can find one through the app store. Many biometric apps provide all the data you need to monitor your progress and measure how hard you work at the gym.
If you prefer to exercise outdoors and enjoy running on trails, you should take some safety precautions. Although some Pokémon Go players are not really athletes, a few have got into trouble by roaming into unsafe areas. This can serve as a cautionary tale for anyone just aimlessly walking or running around.
There are different ways to use your phone to ensure your safety when you exercise outside. In your phone settings, you can use voice activation to have your digital assistant call 911 if you are in a dangerous situation. Apps like StaySafe can set a countdown when you go for a run and can notify the police if you don’t return within a certain time.
If you have an iPhone, you can activate an additional safety feature called Medical ID. If you ever pass out during a workout, a medical professional can take your phone and look up your emergency contact information or medical notes you have chosen to input.