Fancy getting fitter within the comfort of your own home? Then try these apps
Gyms are expensive and full of people. Neither of those things might appeal. But your iPhone can largely replace the gym – all you need is the right apps.
So for this roundup, we’re focusing on apps that give you a ‘gym at home’ experience – which means no outdoor running. And we think such products must be approachable. This is why our choices tend towards apps that make few assumptions about capabilities or equipment, and in most cases afford you flexibility regarding the exercises you do.
Finally, given that a gym membership can leave your bank account breathless, we didn’t want that to be the case here. So most of our picks have low one-off prices. One is even free. That means for a low (or no) outlay, you can set yourself on the way to a fitter, healthier you.
Streaks Workout ($3.99/£3.99)
Best for: No-nonsense workouts
Gyms can be intimidating. Streaks Workout tries to be anything but, in giving you plenty of options regarding how you go about exercising. It sets the bar low in terms of equipment and space – you need none of the former and only a little of the latter.
You can link the app to Health (to record your workouts), Music (for automated song playback while you huff and puff), and Siri (for starting workouts with your voice). After that, you select a workout type, whereupon Streaks Workout will randomly run through a list of exercises.
A timer ring is provided for each, inside of which a little animation plays to show you what to do. Once you’re finished, your efforts are recorded to an in-app calendar, so you can keep track of your progress.
If that was all Streaks Workout had to offer, that would be impressive enough. But the app is configurable. Tap the exercises button to disable exercises you don’t want during routines – or to add your own. And in the custom workouts section, you can define set routines if you’re not a fan of randomness.
In all, Streaks Workout cleverly manages to be immediate and friendly enough for newcomers, but deep enough to be a constant companion for anyone who wants to work up a sweat in their own home.
Carrot Fit ($4.99/£4.99)
Best for: Simple guided workouts – and snark
You might have heard of the seven-minute workout. The idea is to run through a set of aerobic exercises at speed, to work all your major muscle groups, improve fitness and build strength. The time required means most people can fit at least one circuit into a daily routine. The snag: most apps of this ilk are scammy, crude, and not much fun. Carrot Fit bucks the trend.
The app’s by the Carrot Weather folks. Here, the infamous malevolent Carrot AI takes a break from meteorology to break you through the medium of exercise. Said exercises are bodyweight-based, using your own bulk to – in Carrot’s words – “transform your flabby carcass into a Grade A specimen of the human race”.
Along with offering snark and occasional threats, Carrot Fit plays fast and loose with the exercises themselves. What you do will be broadly recognizable. But what they’re called won’t be – you’ll be trained in the likes of ‘Celebrity Face Punches’, ‘Territory Markers’, and ‘Dragon Mating Dances’.
If you need everything strait-laced, steer clear of this app. And it could also do with an update to take into account Dynamic Island. But if you like the idea of infusing a daily exercise routine with fun, silliness, and color, it’s worth a try.
Nike Training Club (free)
Best for: Free video-based workouts
There are many guided workout apps for iPhone, but most demand subscription payments. Nike’s is a rarity. Although it won’t allow entry until you sign up (and annoyingly eschews Apple’s low-friction Sign in with Apple), once you’ve done so you immediately gain access to a wide range of exercise routines – entirely for free.
The app attempts to pick good options for you, based on your data, but you can browse everything on offer. Each exercise has an entry page that outlines its length, intensity, and recommended level, along with what it’s good for – and any equipment you’ll need.
Clarity is the cornerstone of the routines themselves. Videos show you what to do, and voiceovers provide further instruction (including, in one case, helpfully saying “don’t forget to breathe”). This works best with your iPhone propped up in front of you, but the app smartly works in landscape as well as portrait. You can tap to skip anything you’re not keen on, and add your own music if you need some beat-based motivation.
Records are available within the app, and there are achievements to keep you going. You can also link your efforts to Apple’s Health. Despite its free nature, the app also avoids advertising – bar, perhaps, the Nike clothing all the demonstrators wear! Yet it nonetheless feels every inch the premium product.
Apple Fitness+ ($79.99/£79.99 per year)
Best for: Apple hardware integration
Fitness+ is found inside of Apple’s Fitness app. In one scrolling page, you can peruse available sessions, recommended workouts, and collections, along with exploring how to make your own personalized custom plan.
Much like the Nike app, sessions are guided videos featuring actual humans. And these ones smile to the degree they may well have lip strain. Also, in Fitness+, you don’t need to bring your own music – playlists have been created for each session, and can be listened to separately in Apple Music.
But the main way in which Fitness+ differentiates itself from Nike (and other competitors) is through deep integration into the Apple ecosystem. Real-time metrics are pulled directly from your Apple Watch. If you want to use a bigger screen, guides and metrics can be displayed on your television by way of an Apple TV.
The result is effective. It feels swish and vaguely futuristic. However, this all comes at a price: $79.99/£79.99 per year or $9.99/£9.99 per month. Fitness+ is also part of the Premier tier of Apple One, which is a whopping $37.95/£36.95 per month – but can represent good value when shared within a family.
If nothing else, try the free trial, to see if you think Fitness+ is worth the outlay – and to experience a home fitness app that takes things that little bit further.
Pocket Yoga ($2.99/£2.99)
Best for: Getting started with yoga
Many yoga apps veer towards the exploitative – or at least the expensive. It’s hard to achieve inner calm while your bank account is being raided. Pocket Yoga, though, is a bargain: for three bucks, you get a book of yoga poses, and sessions of varying length and difficulty.
If you’re new to yoga, it’s first worth familiarizing yourself with some poses. You’re not going to swallow all of them, but knowing at least some helps you understand what you’ll do during sessions. Each pose is clearly illustrated, and has a description, along with a list of benefits.
Practices are selected from the main screen. Each offers an explanation, along with difficulty and duration settings. Note that yoga should not be rushed – you must set aside at least half an hour for any of the first three of Pocket Yoga’s practices. The two Sun Salutation options are briefer, clocking in at around five minutes each.
When a session’s in progress, an illustration shows what to do, and a voiceover provides further assistance. Having your iPhone in a stand helps. Use the app enough and you’ll unlock new environments for your virtual partner.
Streaks Workout-style session customization regarding poses would be a nice addition; but as it stands, Pocket Yoga proves to be an effective, affordable yoga entry point – and a useful means to quickly set up sessions at home for existing practitioners.