The Best Fitness Apps for Android – November 2017
If you’re like most users, there’s a good chance the computer you use through most of your day isn’t an actual computer at all—it’s your smartphone. Phones have gotten incredibly powerful throughout the last few years, to the point where some devices essentially match laptop computers in terms of their usefulness. Android phones can be especially powerful; devices with large displays like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 or LG V30 can go a long way in managing your daily schedule, planning events, or even creating vlogs and short films. Considering both the ease of use and the pure utility of a smartphone, it’s no wonder that many people have turned to the device to track your fitness data, all in order to help ensure we’re living our lives to the healthiest of standards.
The Google Play Store has, in recent years, been absolutely flooded with apps that promise to help you lose weight, increase your muscle mass, help you sleep better, eat better, and live better. There’s no shortage of applications designed to track each movement and activity throughout your day, from eating to running to sleeping, and convert it into easily accessible data. With the sheer amount of choice, it can be a bit overwhelming if you’re just looking to dip your toes into the world of fitness tracking applications. Whether you’re looking for an easy place to start, or just a solid list of what apps are and aren’t good, it can be tough to find the right apps on the Google Play Store. The truth is the best app for you might not be the best app for everyone else, so you’re better off selecting from a wide variety of excellent fitness applications. No matter whether you’re looking for a fitness hub for your diet and exercise, or a dedicated app to track one single data point, we’ve got you covered. This is our guide to the best fitness apps available on Android.
Google Fit isn’t perfect, but it’s the all-around winner for everything you’d want a fitness application to do. It tracks calories burnt, steps taken and miles walked per day, weight fluctuations, and exercises completed, all in one tidy package that makes it easy to see whether or not you’re active enough. Google Fit also allows you to set daily fitness goals, and will even recommend when to raise these goals to meet your target level of fitness. The app automatically tracks your exercises for you, whether you’re running or bicycling or any other movement based workout, which makes it easy to activate and forget about the phone in your pocket tracking your moves. While this method of tracking isn’t perfect—for example, Fit often confuses riding lawnmowers with bicycles, and will track the movements based around the time it takes to mow your lawn—the daily log is typically fairly accurate, and getting better at it through machine learning every day.
The design of the app is fairly simple. When the main display is open, you’ll see a heading which clearly shows your minutes active each day, the number of miles you’ve walked or run, a clear calorie count, and the number of steps taken during your day. Below that is the main item in the app: the fitness wheel. This will show the amount you’ve been active in a specific day, week, or month, and display the progress as you work towards your goal. Past days, weeks, and months will be displayed below the wheel, and you can check your progress at any time. This wheel includes both tracked and logged information, making it easy to see both what you’ve added manually and what’s been added for you, sorted by category and color. Below that, you’ll find a chart for showing weight loss and gain, and recent workouts. Finally, the timeline feature does a good job in showing your activity for each day.
Adding goals, logging your weight, inputting completed activities, and tracking live exercises is all completed by using the red floating action button in the corner of the screen. This button is a staple of Google’s Android applications, and tapping it here gives you the option to log and activity, start an activity, or log your weight. Google’s done a good job building out their fitness application—they have nearly every exercise in the book, from aerobics to Zumba. You can even track walking or running on a treadmill, which puts it a step ahead of most of its running-focused rival applications. It’s a nice feature to have if you live in an area that experiences cold winters where running outside can be difficult or dangerous.
Google Fit also has an API available for other fitness-app developers, which means you can use several different fitness applications and allow them to automatically sync back to Google Fit when you’re finished with your workout. The ability to sync your workout and diet information back to Fit makes Google’s app an ideal way to keep track of all your fitness progress, while also using more specific apps that can allow great control over options like pre-programmed trail runs or social sharing features that Google Fit lacks. For this reason alone, Fit seems designed to stay active and installed on your phone; even if it isn’t your first go-to fitness application for every single workout, it’ll still be working in the background to track your progress. It’s a fantastic hub that displays your fitness data along with your related goals.
Fit isn’t perfect, but it’s a great overall application to cover what most people want to do with their phones and fitness. What it lacks in in-depth data tracking for specific workouts and exercises, it more than makes up for in usability and adaptability. Though development on the app has seemingly slowed, it’s still a fantastic choice for first-time fitness users, and one of our favorite apps overall. Despite that slowed development and lack of new releases, the fact that this app syncs so well with the other fitness apps on your phone makes it perfect for any user looking to get started with fitness tracking while they’re out on the go. If you’re looking for a single app to cover everything you do with fitness, minus calorie tracking, this is the one for you.
Though Google is the owner and developer behind Android, not everyone prefers the standard Google experience. The strength of Android comes from the ability to customize and choose the apps you want to use on your device, and it’s no surprise that plenty of people prefer the Samsung experience over Google’s own suite of apps. Samsung, after all, is the largest Android manufacturer in the world, one of the only Android device makers to even come close to rivaling Apple in terms of general popularity, and they use that position to their advantage. Much of Samsung’s software is customized in order to use their phone’s hardware to the full potential, and while Samsung has scaled back some of their software efforts (like replacing their music application with Google Play Music), plenty of their software experience is still offered both through their phones and on the Play Store. In an effort to become more of a software company, Samsung has opened up many of their apps to any device running Android, not just their own, and you’ll be happy to know that Samsung Health is a great alternative to Google Fit.
We won’t lie: the display and layout for Samsung Health is incredibly busy, and it can be difficult to identify where you should look and where you should begin. The top of the display is perhaps, the worst portion, with a rotating carousel displaying articles and reward systems that, while health related, aren’t necessarily tied to actually tracking your health. Thankfully, swiping up hides that banner and makes it far easier to read the main portion of the app, and with the carousel hidden, you can actually identify the main portions of the app. The top of the panel asks you to set targets, goals, and to track your activities, and for most users, this will be a good place to start. Below that is your step counter for the day, followed by some quick-launch items that make it easy to track the general contents of your app. You’ll find a like to start tracking your running, to track your water intake, and even some new additions to the app over something like Fit, including the option to measure your heart rate, the oxygen level of your heart, and even your stress level. All of these features depend on your phone featuring a heart rate sensor built-in (which every Samsung flagship since the Galaxy S5 has had), and though the numbers might not be exact (especially the stress range), it is a good way to keep up on measuring your mental health, something entirely ignored by most fitness apps.
When it comes to tracking your general fitness, however, Samsung Health offers a lot of the same sorts of features we’ve seen from Google Fit. You can track exercises like walking, running, and cycling, while also adding more specific exercises, like swimming and aerobics. The app even features some amusingly niche suggestions, our favorite of the bunch being hang gliding. The app also offers specific workout and exercise tracking, which means more complex workouts like squats, deadlifts, and benchpressing. When comparing the app to Google Fit, where a lot of these strength-based workouts are combined into an overarching “Strength Training” category, it’s obvious that Samsung Health has put a lot of additional work into their application. While there are dedicated strength-training apps that will do a better job in tracking your progress than Samsung Health, it’s nice to see a “hub” application that includes these features.
Along the top of the app, you’ll find four distinct tabs that offer different information and utilities depending on what you’re looking for in your fitness tracking. The Me tab is the one you’ll use the most, dedicated to tracking some of the content outlined above. Meanwhile, the Together tab goes a long way in gamifying fitness, with a steps leaderboard, challenges, and even a leveling system that makes it a whole lot more fun to be active. There’s monthly challenges for hitting certain step goals, which use your rank to show where you fall on a list of hundreds of thousands of players around the world. We’ve seen this sort of gamification work elsewhere, specifically with Pokemon Go and other mobile games, and it’s nice to see Samsung giving something new a shot. This wasn’t a feature when we first reviewed the app back in April, making it a great addition to this re-review. The other tabs include the Experts tab that allows you to enroll in Amwell’s online doctor visits, and the Discover tab that hosts articles on physical, mental, and emotional health. These two tabs will likely go unused by plenty of users, but it’s a nice addition to a solid fitness application.
Is Samsung Health the app you’ve been waiting for for years? Maybe. Maybe not. It all comes down to what you’re looking for in a fitness app, and in this case, Samsung Health represents a uniquely-Samsung approach to health tracking and health applications. It’s truly the “everything but the kitchen sink” of fitness applications, and in a way, that’s actually a benefit to this app. Samsung’s focus on all forms of health, both physical and otherwise, in many ways puts it well above Google’s own application. Hell, the top article inside the discover tab on the app referred directly to understanding the accusations and apologies that surround sexual assault, a very health-related topic in both physical, mental, and emotional ways. The app’s ability to rate your stress and ask you to log your mood might seem small, but it can go a long way when looking for help surround your mental health. And that’s to say nothing of some of the gamification surrounding the walking levels on the app. When we originally review Samsung Health (S Health, at the time), we said that it may be too busy of an app for some users. While that could still certainly be argued, we’d now say that the app is worth much more than it originally was. While we prefer the “plug-in” method of Google Fit, don’t skip out on Samsung Health—it’s a solid offering.
If you’re looking for a way to get stronger while following a simple, straightforward program, we recommend downloading Stronglifts before your next trip to the gym. Out of every workout program we’ve tested on the Play Store, this happens to be one of our absolute favorites. With over a million downloads on the Play Store, Stronglifts currently sits at a 4.9 out of 5 from user reviews, one of the highest overall averages we’ve seen from any application, let alone a free app. The free version of Stronglifts offers the basic workout program, free and without ads. You workout three times a week, for about 45 minutes per workout, following the guidelines and directions set by the app. Each session contains three exercises, with two alternate days. Day A focuses on squats, bench press, and standing rows, while Day B focuses on squats (again), overhead press, and deadlifts. Each workout is maximized to give you as much progress per workout as possible without spending three to four hours per day at the gym. The app presents you with weight levels, rest times, and audible alerts to let you know when to do your workout. Though there are several smaller payments of $1.99, you can unlock the full version of the app for just $9.99, which gives you warm-up training, assistance work, Google Fit integration, and so much more. Apps like Runtastic may double-dip for their pro versions and monthly fees, but Stronglifts gives you a ton of value for just $9.99—or, if you wish, for free.
Runtastic has been the running tracker of choice for millions of users, both on the free and Pro version of the app available for $4.99, and it’s easy to see why. The app’s layout is clean, features a basic material design interface, and is generally easy to use. It’s always nice to see a major app developer like Runtastic—which has dozens of apps available on the Play Store for free or available with a monthly fee—follow Google and Android’s own design rather than sticking to their own proprietary look. It’s a powerful running app that can track and store your runs for free, with the option for paying the additional $4.99 fee to use the app without advertisements. The main app display can be customized to show the statistics you like, and can display calories burnt, distance and duration, and even heart rate information, assuming you’re willing to pick up the app’s own heart rate monitor to use. There’s a ton of extra features that can be used with this app as well, including interval training, leaderboards, and even the ability to track the life-range of your running shoes.
One major downside to using Runtastic: despite the Pro version of the app running you $4.99, you don’t unlock all the features of the application unless you sign up for a Premium account. Runtastic itself isn’t too clear on the features each version offers, but the major offerings are Runtastic’s Story Runs, which either have to be bought individually or unlocked by a premium membership fee. Monthly plans run you $9.99, or annual plans can be bought for $49.99. You unlock some cool features for this fee, and your premium membership will reach across every application in Runtastic’s ever-growing library, but overall, it’s a high price to ask for some extra, unnecessary content.
If the additional features of Runtastic are a bit too much for you, we’re happy to say Strava’s own alternative running and bicycling application impressed us in our tests. Strava is much more of a social-focused application than Runtastic, with your feed populated by users you select to follow. You can plug in Facebook friends into the app, but unfortunately, Strava’s user base is significantly smaller than what we’ve seen from apps like Runtastic and Runkeeper, which means you might be out of luck when it comes to adding your real-life friends. You can add random users and some celebrities that use the app (most notably vlogger Casey Neistat), but otherwise, you might find the platform to be a bit lonely. Strava doesn’t utilize material design language, but the actual look of the app is pretty clean, with a nice white and orange design that looks great on most displays. Unlike the Pedometer app we reviewed below, this app is easy to use for both running and bicycling, and creating routes online is super simple. While the running interface isn’t as customizable as Runtastic’s own, it features large numbers that make it easy to check your stats while moving. Strava offers a premium model, just like Runtastic, but its base app is both free and contains no ads, putting it one notch above Runtastic’s Pro version. The Premium features for Strava offer personalized coaching, live feedback, and advanced analysis for $7.99 a month, but we think most users are going to find the free version suits them just fine.
If you’re looking for something less intense than Stronglifts, or you want something you can do at home without buying expensive weightlifting equipment or paying for a gym membership, you can’t do a whole lot better than something like Leap Fitness’ 30 Day Fit Challenge Workout. 30 Day allows you to pick a muscle group you want to focus—be it full-body, abs, butt, arm, or leg—and, over the course of thirty days, pushes you to do several intense workouts at a variety of skill levels, pushing you to new levels of fitness easily accessible from the comfort of your own home. The app itself is laid out in an easy-to-read fashion, with options and your current, trackable weight being displayed on the front page of the app. Settings allow you to back up your exercises to the cloud, sync to Google Fit, and set reminders to workout. Though 30 Day Fit does feature advertisements, both on the home screen and, more annoyingly, at the start and end of workouts, they are manageable and don’t seem to actually interrupt the flow of the workout itself. Once you’ve begun a workout for the month, your progress will display on the front screen, which is helpful. The app also displays how to do each exercise and announces your rests and reps.. If you’re just looking to get into full-body workouts and don’t quite have the time or money to dedicate to a gym membership, 30 Day is a good place to start. For those who already own gym memberships, however, or are looking to lift heavier weights than body-weight exercises allow, you’ll want to look into something more like Stronglifts.
Lose It! is one of the earliest diet tracking apps on both iOS and Android, and it’s made a ton of progress over the years growing from an early program into a full-fledged weight loss application. When you sign up, you’ll be asked for some basic information about yourself, including your height, weight, and age, in order to track your calorie intake throughout the day. You’ll then be asked for your target weight, and you’ll even be able to set the timeframe you wish to complete your goal in. For example, setting the app to lose 10 pounds gives you several speed suggestions. The default option is fairly slow, which pushes you to take your time in order to stay on track. The app set the goal date for over two months away, informing us that the caloric intake limit was set to just over 2,000 calories a day. This puts you at a pound a week over a period of ten weeks, and makes it easy for users to stick to this goal without trying to make the hill to steep to climb. The app is free, and contains ads and a premium monthly/yearly subscription model. The basic features—food logs, calorie tracking, nutrition preferences—are all available in the standard plan, but to plan meals ahead of time, set custom goals beyond calorie counts, or remove ads, you’ll have to upgrade to the premium model, which is billed annually at $39.99. It’s a bit too steep for us to recommend to everyone, but if you try the app out and enjoy its feature set, it’s much cheaper than comparable calorie tracking programs like Weight Watchers. It’s really up to what feature set you want; we found the premium model to be a bit too expensive for our tastes.
Mealime isn’t a traditional fitness application, but as any gym-rat will tell you, fitness starts in the kitchen. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or gain muscle, you’re going to want to ensure that your diet is up to tip-top shape, and one of the best diet planning applications we’ve found is Mealime. The app is rather simple: when you sign up for the app, you tell Mealime what you want in a menu-type, with several options. Classic will give you all options, flexitarian will limit meat, low-carb will limit your carb intake, paleo will follow the popular paleo diet, pescetarian will give you veggies and seafood, and finally, vegetarian will eliminate meat from the equation all together. If you have restrictions or allergies, you can also input those to avoid foods like peanuts or shellfish. You can also input the ingredients you dislike from a large list of commonly-disliked foods, including beets, eggplant, and mushrooms. If you don’t have any diet limitations, you can also skip over these options. The meal size is also flexible, between two or four servings, meaning the app is good for both individuals and families. Once you’ve chosen your meal settings, you can generate weekly meals, anywhere from two to six complete meals ready to go. For example, setting the diet options to low-carb and telling the app to deliver three meals gave us several healthy options that were different in tastes and types of food. Mealime also offers a premium version with a monthly fee of $5.99, which offers nutritional information, exclusive recipes, and the option to favorite meals in order to return to them. If you’re looking for a meal planner or you just want to learn how to cook, we can’t think of many better options than Mealime.
If you aren’t interested in either Google’s or Samsung’s approaches to general fitness, you might want to check out Pacer Health’s Pedometer and Weight Loss Coach, referred to the app as “Pedometer” from here on out. The app is another approach at the same types of information that Google and Samsung are both trying to provide, with an emphasis on burning calories and your amount of steps taken per day. Unlike Google’s strict adherence to their own material design and Samsung’s own software design showing so clearly through their application, Pedometer feels more like an iOS application than anything else. There’s no sliding menus or large, menu-based options to be found. Instead, the tabs for each category are found at the bottom of the display, in an iOS-style. You can also see additional features by swiping on the main display, such as swiping left to set your workout plan or swiping right to start a GPS-based exercise. The app also allows for manual input of exercises, but unlike either of the first two applications, you’re fairly limited in what you can tell the service. Instead of offering fifty or sixty different workouts and forms of exercise, Pedometer gives you options like “Running, general” or “Sports, vigorous,” which means the user has to decide how much energy they put into the workout, instead of the phone tracking (or attempting to track) the intensity of any style of workout. Some users may find this as a benefit, but we’d rather our fitness applications to do as much of the tracking as it can automatically, and for that reason, Pedometer doesn’t make our Top Pick spot.
MyFitnessPal has been mentioned quite a few times throughout this guide as an example of another service you can use to sync your fitness data together, and Calorie Counter happens to be an app they built in-house. At its core, Calorie Counter is a lot like Lose It!. You tell the app what you want to do with your weight, whether it be lose, maintain, or gain, and the app tells you how many calories to eat during the day. The main display shows your remaining calories for the day, subtracting the amount you’ve eaten from your base amount and adding back whatever you’ve burned through daily exercise. The app essentially guarantees that you can lose a pound a week just by logging what you’ve eaten throughout the day, while still managing to eat a fairly large amount of food. Whereas Lose It! informed us to eat about 2,000 calories a day in our quest to lose a pound a week, MFP told us to eat nearly 2,500 while still hitting the target goal. Unfortunately, the rest of the app was disappointing. More than half of the app’s home display is taken up by blog posts about nutrition, a waste of an otherwise useful space. The app also cosnsitently served ads for MFP’s other fitness apps. Many of the settings are hidden behind a $9.99/month paywall, including setting specific calorie goals by meal, and even basic information like displaying nutrition facts for each meal you enter. Overall, MFP is just not as full-fledged as Lose It! unless you’re willing to pay for the full premium tier. Still, don’t completely count out MyFitnessPal—despite are opinions, there are definitely some positive qualities to this app.
Our final app suggestion is Headspace, a guided meditation app that is trusted by millions of users to bring balance to their mental health through daily meditation. This app won’t be for everyone—we know plenty of people who find meditation to be overwhelming, exhausting, or simply ineffective, and if that’s you, don’t stress too much about it. That said, meditation is something everyone should try at least once, and the benefits to daily meditation are obvious. With daily meditation, you can reduce your anxiety, stress levels, sleep better at night, and generally feel happier and an increased sense of calmness. Headspace is likely one of the top meditation apps available on the web, and it’s easy to see why. Each day gives you a new daily meditation exercise to work on that pushes you towards feeling healthier, happier, and an increased sense of calm. The app isn’t ad-supported, but it does have a dozen or so packs to unlock for extra meditation. If you want to get the most out of the app, you’ll probably end up having to pay for a specific guided meditation track. That said, we found the free version of the app to suffice for some basic meditation exercises, bringing us a sense of peace and relaxation. Not everyone can turn their brain off in a way required for meditation, and this app might not be for you. For loads of people, however, meditation can be a game changer. If you don’t think of mental fitness as part of your daily regimen, it might be time to start.