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Making Fitness Fun – great apps that turn exercise into a game

Apps to get you fighting fit — in a way that will entertain rather than demoralize

It’s not easy working up the enthusiasm to exercise — and too many fitness apps are po-faced. They delight in displaying toned bodies and screens of clinical data. You methodically trudge along and get nothing but boring graphs back. The inference is you might — months from now — feel the benefit.

But before you bury your head in a vat of ice cream, some app creators know exercise can be fun and friendly. Their apps are accessible and turn everything into a game — ideal if you’ll only run when pursued by ravenous zombies, walk when hunting tiny cartoon critters, and exercise when being threatened by a malevolent, snarky artificial intelligence.

Read on to discover these gems — and more.

Pokémon GO

Free + IAP • v1.153.1 • 315.7 MB • By Niantic, Inc.

It’s a testament to the quality and accessibility of Pokémon GO that it remains popular years after its 2016 debut. It is, by some margin, the most game-oriented app in this selection — exercise almost being a side-effect of the product’s geo-location-based nature.

Your mission is to explore local streets, hunting down elusive Pokémon. When you find one, you lob a Poké Ball its way to capture it. Different environments contain different prey, and optional AR enables you to further integrate the virtual world into your real surroundings. Further interest arrives from hatching additional critters from eggs (awarded based on distance traveled) and capturing local landmarks that are skills-boosting Pokémon Gyms in the videogame world.

Although Pokémon GO’s star has faded somewhat since its early highs, it’s still regularly updated and worth checking out. Of the titles in this list, it’s the most social and family-friendly, even it results in walks around local beauty spots more glued to screens than the local scenery.

Download Pokémon GO

Zombies, Run!

Free + IAP  • v9.0.4 • 511.4 MB • By Six to Start

Go for a morning walk or jog and those less attuned to early starts might resemble shuffling zombies. This game takes that all the way, stuffing anywhere you happen to be with the undead. Fortunately, zombies haven’t quite taken over the entire world, and in Zombies, Run!, you become part of the resistance.

The basic premise is by using the power of your legs, you can go on vital supply runs and keep what’s left of humanity ticking over. Should you hear something nearby going HHRRZNNGSZZ EATTTTLZZZ BRAINZZZZ, it’s then a good idea to step up the pace, before you get torn to shreds.

For free, you can try into this entertainingly terrifying mash-up of exercise and post-apocalyptic nightmare, gradually unlocking new stories, or delve into indoor home workout adventures. Alternatively, grab a pro membership, build your own in-game community, and rapidly realize why the survivors in The Walking Dead can run for miles without a second thought.

Download Zombies, Run!


Free • v5.0.2 • 13.8 MB • By Thickpolicy LLC

The idea behind Strut is simple but intoxicating — especially if you’re the kind of person who likes exploring while out and about. The app begins with a world map covered in tiles. As you move around your locale, tiles are gradually removed, revealing the places you’ve been. This wins you awards, along with gradually moving you up the leaderboard for that town and on a national basis.

Strut isn’t too concerned how you move around. Its App Store description notes you could “drive, sail, ride a goat or take a hot air balloon”; however, it works well for running, walking, and cycling, urging you onwards with regular virtual bling and leveling up.

Although the social element is basic, you can search for and favorite other users. This might therefore provide an outlet for Run An Empire refugees, unhappy at how that app transformed from competitive outdoor exploration app to IAP-infused clicker. Either way — solo or battling friends — Strut is well worth downloading.

Strut is free to use, but needs cash to keep the lights on. If you’re a keen player, you can donate via the Strut website.

Download Strut

Carrot Fit

$5/£5 • v4.1.2 • 41.9 MB • By Grailr LLC

We covered Carrot Fit in a recent home gym article, but it’s just as relevant in a round-up about fun exercise apps. At its core, Carrot is a seven-minute workout app, speeding you through aerobic exercises to work muscle groups, improve fitness and build strength. The brevity of sessions means it’s easy to fit into your day.

Where Carrot Fit diverges from its contemporaries is in being helmed by the malevolent AI behind Carrot Weather. The app will insult and even threaten you while, in Carrot’s own words, attempting to “transform your flabby carcass into a Grade A specimen of the human race”. And although the exercises are recognizable, they have curious names, training you in the likes of ‘Celebrity Face Punches’ and ‘Dragon Mating Dances’.

If you want exercise to be serious, you’re in the wrong place. But seeing as you’re reading an article about making exercise fun, there’s a good chance you’ll find the silly, entertaining, colorful Carrot Fit a good fit.

Download Carrot Fit

Also consider:

Standland (free + IAP): Convert Apple Watch stands (or 80-step iPhone mini-strolls) into virtual currency for unlocking adorable creatures.

The Walk (free + IAP): Every step counts as you walk the length of the UK to stay ahead in this tense adventure by the Zombies, Run! folks.

Walkr (free + IAP): Improve your walking habits by having steps convert into energy fuel for a little spaceship with which to explore the galaxy.

World Uncovered (free + IAP): Use geo-location to uncover a map of the world, score bonus points for visiting famous locations, and battle friends on Game Center.