Fitness apps can help people get in shape - here's how to use one of the top science-backed workout apps
Less than a quarter of adults aged 18 to 64 met the government's recommended physical activity guidelines between 2010 and 2015. Those guidelines call for healthy adults to do a minimum of two and half hours of moderate intensity activity - or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity - plus at least two muscle-strengthening days a week.
Exercise is essentially the closest thing that exists to a miracle drug - something that can extend life, boost mood and improve mental health, fight disease, and just make you feel better as you live your day-to-day life.
But once you decide it's time to get fit, it can be hard to know where to start. Fitness apps can help.
One of the top apps for getting in shape is the free version of the Sworkit app, which functions as a sort of playlist for exercise, whether you want to do bodyweight strength exercises, stretches, cardio, or yoga. The company behind the app received a $1.5 million investment from Mark Cuban after appearing on "Shark Tank," and there's scientific evidence backing the use of Sworkit for training, too.
In 2015, a team of sports scientists analyzed 30 popular free fitness apps and found that Sworkit was the most closely aligned with the American College of Sports Medicine's (ACSM) training guidelines.
Those guidelines say a workout should include aerobic, strength, resistance, and flexibility components; it should follow evidence-based guidelines for frequency, intensity, and types of workouts; and it should include safety measures to help make sure beginners start at a safe point.
No app was perfect, the analysis found (and most were terrible). The biggest concern that researchers had is that by getting a workout from an app instead of a trainer, a person might try to do more than they should and injure themselves.
But overall, that analysis found that Sworkit provided useful guidelines for strength training, cardio, and flexibility exercise, and I personally have found it a fun and effective way to fit in a workout on busy days.
(It is worth noting that another recent analysis that compared apps to the ACSM's training guidelines had many of of the same concerns about injuries, and that analysis didn't rank Sworkit as highly as several other popular apps worth trying, including Nike+ and the top choice in that analysis, the The Johnson and Johnson Official 7-Minute Workout, highly recommended by my colleague Erin Brodwin.)
But if you're interested in a playlist of exercises that can be done without equipment and for a variable duration of time, we'd recommend giving Sworkit a try. Here's how it works.
The initial interface is simple and clean.
There are a number of custom or sport-specific workouts, though many require payment.
After choosing from one of the four main categories of workout — strength, cardio, yoga, or stretching — you get to select a focused workout from within that category.
Once you choose a workout, you'll see a list of the included exercises.
After you pick a workout, you can choose how long you want to exercise for.
You can also tweak the amount of time in between exercises.
Each exercise comes with an animation that shows you exactly how to perform it, which comes in handy, since proper form is essential.
There's a good variety of exercises, some easier or harder than others.
From the home screen, you can select the "My Sworkit" tab to see your recent progress.
You can also create and save one custom workout for free.
The exercise list, which you can use to create a custom workout, is impressive.
Other sections of the app, like the cardio section, work similarly to the strength workouts.
The yoga section includes a few different sequences, including a sun salutation and an everyday option.
There's a similar variety of stretching routines.
While the app is a great option to have, don't make it the only part of your exercise regimen.
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