Whether you want to lose weight, run faster or score extra workout motivation, there’s an app for that…and a fitness tracker…and a new-fangled gadget. Overwhelmed yet? With the world of health technology exploding every day, it’s no secret that sifting through your options to get to the good stuff can be a chore.
That’s why we did the legwork for you and went straight to the experts for their picks. These are the tech tools your favorite doctors, trainers, nutritionists and bloggers rely on to reach their health and fitness goals. We found the best app to track your high-intensity interval training, the easiest way to count calories and the best tool to actually help you run faster. Plus, they’ve all been tested by trusted experts and bloggers, so you can bet they’re pretty darn good.
Your Go-to Gym Gadgets
1. The PUSH Fitness Tracker
Want to tone your arm muscles? PUSH is the first device designed to help you reach your strength training goals. Strap the band below your elbow, select an exercise and the tracker will give you feedback on the number of reps you’ve done — and how fast and powerfully you completed each one. “It measures power and velocity, eliminating the need to rely on a laser-focused coach’s eye or…watching your own reps,” says Jen Sinkler, author, personal trainer and owner of The Movement Minneapolis. “When speed slows down, it’s time to call it a day for that movement,” she says. ($189; trainwithpush.com)
2. The Ithlete App
So how do you really know if your body has recovered from yesterday’s workout? James Cotter, former professional triathlete and founder of Hard Yards relies on ithlete to make sure he’s not overtraining. “This helps all athletes arrive at the start line fresher and helps you avoid becoming overly fatigued during bigger training blocks,” Cotter says. Using a heart rate monitor or finger sensor, the app measures your heart rate variability — the time between your heartbeats when you’re at rest. If the variation is minimal, then, according to the app, you’re ready to train. If your body is burned out, it’ll tell you to take a rest day. “Being an athlete involves being able to show up on key training days and races ready to perform,” Cotter says. ($8.99; myithlete.com)
3. The Tabata Pro App
If you love HIIT training, you know how annoying it is to fumble with your watch to track your intervals. Luckily, the Tabata Pro app will do that for you. (The burpees are up to you.) Celebrity trainer and author of The 20-Minute Body Brett Hoebel says, “My 20-Minute Body classes require different timed intervals and music. This app allows for many different types of intervals as well as playing my favorite playlists over [the] timer noises.” ($2.99; simpletouchsoftware.com)
4. The Skulpt Aim Device
Pretty sure your BMI isn’t telling you the whole story? Skulpt Aim is a handheld device that uses electrical impulses to measure your body fat and muscle tone, from your pecs to your calves. “I’ve been using it monthly to track my progress in the gym,” says Tamara Grand, personal trainer, group fitness instructor and online fitness coach. “I love that it allows you to compare the left and right sides of the body.” The result? The ability to spot imbalances and work toward a more balanced physique. ($149; store.skulpt.me)
Your Health and Weight Loss Arsenal
5. The Handpick App
Need recipe inspiration for that Swiss chard wilting in your veggie drawer? Whip it into a delicious dish using this database of over 10,000 food items and recipes on the Handpick app. “Some people get stuck preparing the same meals all the time, so an app that can encourage you to infuse fresh ideas into the mix is a great tool,” says celebrity chef Paula Hankin. The coolest feature? You can browse a curated feed of recipes based on the best drool-worthy food pics from Instagram. (Free; handpick.com)
6. The Sleep Cycle App
If you still feel groggy after a full night’s rest, put down your coffee and download the Sleep Cycle app now. “It’s an alarm clock that tracks your sleep patterns and wakes you up during light sleep,” say Lori Morris and Michelle Corso, the sisters behind the health and fitness blog Purely Twins. The app, which tracks your movements using your phone’s accelerometer, claims to gently nudge you awake only when you’re in a light sleep phase (your body’s natural waking point). The result: You’ll actually get out of bed feeling refreshed. ($0.99; sleepcycle.com)
7. My Fitness Pal
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just keep a food diary, My Fitness Pal makes it easy with more than five million foods in its tracking database. Matt Orlando, the blogger behind The Runner Dad, used the calorie counting tool to lose about 20 pounds. “It allowed me to easily set calorie and fitness goals, track my daily intake and automatically import the data provided by my running watch to help me track my health,” he says. Meanwhile, Jesica D’Avanza, author of the blog rUnladylike, relies on the app to stay on top of her nutrition. “My Fitness Pal is incredibly helpful for keeping track of the food I eat to ensure that, as an athlete, I’m getting the right mix of proteins, carbs and fats as well as eating enough calories for the amount of physical activity I’m doing,” says the runner, triathlete and marathon coach. (Free; myfitnesspal.com)
Your Running Toolkit
8. The Spring Moves App
There’s no doubt the right music can put a spring in your step. With Spring Moves, you can more easily match your running cadence to your tunes. All you have to do is run to the beat to stay on track. “As a sports doc, I love this app for my patients since I’m always trying to get them to quicken their cadence and shorten their stride, thereby reducing their risk of injury,” says Dr. Jordan Metzl, sports medicine doctor and creator of the Ironstrength Workout. “It’s much more user-friendly than counting steps.” (Free; springmoves.com)
9. The Strava App
If a little healthy competition is what motivates you, then Strava is the app for you. With Strava, you can compare your runs (or rides) against your past efforts, or go head-to-head with others in the community. “It’s the perfect app for anyone who has a competitive edge, whether you are competing against yourself to beat your best time or looking at the long list of athletes who beat you on the big climb or portion of your run or ride,” says Jamie King, CEO and founder of FitApproach and SweatGuru. (Free; strava.com)
10. Bluetooth Headphones
There’s nothing worse than getting tangled up in your headphone cords when you’re out for a run. That’s why Caroline Kaufman, MS, RDN relies on her Motorola bluetooth headphones. “[They] make it so much easier to head outside for a walk or run without being tethered to your phone or strapping on some uncomfortable, sweaty, ill-fitting armband,” she says. “You can listen to music and take phone calls without touching your phone.” ($43.95; amazon.com)
11. GPS Running Watch
Some runners may say that a GPS running watch isn’t just a cool technology — it’s a necessary one. At a basic level, these watches track distance, pace and time. But opinions are split as to which device does it all best.
Several run-nerds we spoke with swear by their Garmins, including Jeff Gaudette, Head Coach and founder of RunnersConnect. “There’s nothing more important than getting an accurate time, distance and pace for your run and Garmin makes some sleek watches that get the job done,” says Gaudette.
Meanwhile, King recommends the Suunto Ambit2, an integrated GPS and heart rate monitor. “This GPS watch truly does it all — from recording workouts, heart rate monitoring and even weather functions,” she says. You can also download running apps designed to improve your performance directly to your watch.
And if you want to monitor your heart rate but hate wearing a chest strap, check out the TomTom Runner Watch. Orlando says it’s his favorite piece of fitness technology because it accurately tracks his stats and easily syncs to his phone and apps like My Fitness Pal. Amanda Brooks, the voice of the blog Run To The Finish, depends on her TomTom to help her stick to her training methodology. “As someone who follows low heart rate training, I have fallen head over heels for the TomTom Runner watch,” she says. “It measures heart rate through the watch strap, removing the need to wear that infuriating chest strap!”
Disclosure: All products featured on our site are carefully selected and vetted in the hopes of getting you closer to your health and fitness goals. In some cases, you might come across an affiliate link on our site, which means we receive a small commission should you decide to make a purchase.