The Best Fitness Apps for Working Out At Home
Pick a fitness platform that has exercises for your fitness level.
Pick a fitness platform that has exercises for your fitness level.
I’m a card-carrying member of Club Living Room. Don’t get me wrong: I used to hit the gym at least three times a week. But when I started working—and working out—from home, I became a convert. Mostly because of fitness apps.
These apps saved me money, and fit anywhere in my chaotic schedule. Even with the return to in-person workouts, I plan to keep them in my routine. For most people, regardless of age, fitness level or amount of disposable income, the smartest path to fitness is through an app.
Sure, connected-gym hardware offers an integrated, distraction-free, sensor-laden social experience. But it has high upfront costs plus a monthly subscription, and often runs proprietary software that doesn’t work with other content providers.
Fitness apps, on the other hand, can be customized to work at home or in a gym, with or without equipment, as well as outdoors. They can make working out from home, or wherever you are, easy, fun and effective—as long as you pick the right one. The number of options is overwhelming: App Annie, a mobile analytics firm, estimates that the iOS and Android app stores had at least 71,000 health-and-fitness apps world-wide in 2020.
What should a good fitness app offer? And how do you use an app to create a well-rounded, sustainable exercise routine?
“Fitness is not one size fits all. A good app will account for that by offering variety,” said Zakkoyya Lewis-Trammell, assistant professor of kinesiology at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. That could mean a mix of workouts by length, intensity and style that allows you to choose, depending on your needs and fitness level.
The most important aspect of a fitness app is that it offers exercise you like to do, according to Aimee Layton, assistant professor of physiology at Columbia University Medical Center and member of Peloton’s Health and Wellness Advisory Council, or combines something you like to do with exercising—for instance, watching TV while using an indoor biking app such as Zwift.
“Self-efficacy,” or believing that you can successfully do what the program is asking of you, is another critical feature, Dr. Layton says.
After testing dozens of different fitness apps, I have a few tips of my own:
• Free content on YouTube and free trials can help you figure out which kind of workouts you enjoy doing before committing to a program. (On iOS and Android, you can immediately unsubscribe to avoid being charged.) A paid subscription, however, can mean a better experience and greater commitment.
• During an activity, turn on Do Not Disturb. An email pop-up can quickly cut a workout short. (On iOS, you can even set up a fitness-specific Focus mode to allow truly important stuff through.)
• Access to downloadable classes is useful, especially for frequent travellers or people with poor internet connectivity.
The following apps, my favourites during the past year, have all of the above in mind. They kept me engaged with many different types of workouts, as well as options for warm-ups and cool-downs to prevent injury. But, of course, working out is a highly personal activity, so try before you buy—all of these platforms offer a free trial.
It’s for Music-motivated fitness enthusiasts
Price: $16.99 a month
Platforms: iOS, Android, web, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Android TV
Peloton offers plenty to its app subscribers, customers who don’t have the company’s pricey bike or treadmill. Tune into multiple live-streamed classes a day, or download on-demand workouts offline. The app’s music-themed Artist Series workouts are best: Try the BTS ride, AC/DC full-body strength class and Beyoncé dance cardio. There are guided outdoor runs and walks, too. You can connect a Bluetooth heart-rate sensor or Apple Watch to see a “strive score” based on heart-rate zones. App users can’t see how their metrics stack up against other members’ on Peloton’s leaderboard—that’s exclusive to the people who own its equipment.
It’s for: Those focused on mindfulness
Price: Approx. $28 a month or $276 a year
Platforms: iOS, Android, web, Apple TV, Chromecast
Alo Moves’ library is packed with content for people who prefer to move on a yoga mat. From challenging power yoga to epic sound-bath meditation, the app features a range of classes. There are barre, Pilates and strength-based workouts, as well. Don’t know where to start? Drop into one of Alo Moves’ series, which include a virtual yoga retreat to the island of Santorini. If you can’t be in Greece, take your workout outside: Any class you bookmark can be downloaded offline.
It’s for: People who want a plan
Price: $29 a month, or $177 a year.
Platforms: iOS, Android, web
Sweat is a personalized training app based on 37 different programs that range from two weeks to more than 24. After you select a program, the app plots your workout schedule on a calendar. Instead of a guided studio-style workout, Sweat assembles personalized exercises for each workout. You can input the equipment you have access to, choose your own playlist, select the pre-workout warm-up and substitute any exercises that are too easy or difficult. And if you need meal inspiration, the app suggests daily healthy recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack. Unfortunately, there’s no support for offline workouts.
It’s for: Apple Watch users
Price: $14.99 a month or $119.99 per year.
Platforms: iOS, Apple Watch, Apple TV
Apple’s platform features guided activities across 10 different disciplines, including cycling and Pilates. Many of the workouts, which can be streamed or downloaded, are beginner and low-impact; there are programs designed specifically for older adults and people who are pregnant. Fitness+ does require users to own a Series 3 Apple Watch or newer. Watch stats, such as heart rate and calories, show up on screen during workouts. On Monday, the app launches guided, audio-based outdoor running workouts, called Time to Run. New episodes will be delivered weekly, and downloaded to the paired Apple Watch.
Fitness+ is a better value when it’s shared: Everyone in your iCloud household (up to six people) can use a single subscription—but they all need an Apple Watch.
It’s for: People who want personal training and accountability
Price: Approx. $207 a month
Platforms: iOS and Apple Watch
Picking a workout, like picking what to watch on Netflix, can be daunting. Future takes the guesswork out of crafting a training plan. First, you’re paired with a live personal trainer, with whom you’ll discuss your schedule, equipment and goals over FaceTime. Then, every week, your coach will send a schedule that includes a personalized set of exercises, and track your progress on your Apple Watch, which is required. (The company plans to expand to Android this year.)
You can upload videos of your workouts to get feedback on your form. Travelling or need a rest day? Message your trainer through the app to modify your exercises accordingly. The app’s primary feature is accountability: Your trainer might nudge you if your Apple Watch stats suggest you aren’t sticking to the plan.
Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: January 9, 2022.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’
Booming demand for wellness tourism shows no slowing, with travel related to health and well-being projected to have reached $1 trillion last year and to hit $1.3 trillion by 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit based in Miami.
Curated wellness travel programs are especially sought-after, specifically holistic treatments focused on longevity. Affluent travellers not only are making time to hit the gym while gallivanting across the globe, they’re also seeking destinations that specifically cater to their wellness goals, including treatments aimed at living longer.
“I believe Covid did put a spotlight on self-care and well-being,” says Penny Kriel, corporate director of spa and wellness at Salamander Collection, a group of luxury properties in places like Washington, D.C., and Charleston, South Carolina. But Kriel says today’s spas are more holistic, encouraging folks to understand the wellness concept and incorporate it into their lifestyle more frequently.
“With the evolution of treatment products and technology, spas have been able to enhance their offerings and appeal to more travellers,” Kriel says.
While some growth is connected to the variety of treatments available, results and the digital world are also contributing to the wellness boom.
“The efficacy and benefits of these treatments continue to drive bookings and interest, especially with the support of social media, influencers, and celebrity endorsements,” Kriel says.
While genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, a diet free of processed foods, sufficient sleep, and human connection play essential roles in living well and longer, experts believe in holistic therapies to help manage stress, boost immunity, and ultimately influence length and quality of life.
Anti Ageing and Beyond
“For years, people have been coming to spas, booking treatments, and gaining advice on how to turn the clock back with anti ageing and corrective skin treatments,” Kriel says. However, today’s treatments are far more innovative.
On Marinella Beach in Porto Rotondo, on the Italian island of Sardinia, guests at the five-star Abi d’Oru Hotel & Spa can experience the resort’s one-of-a-kind “longevity treatment,” a unique antiaging facial using one of the island’s native grapes: Cannonau. The world’s first declared “Blue Zone”—one of five designated areas where people live longer than average, some into their 100s—Sardinia produces this robust red wine varietal, the most widely planted on the island.
Known as Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in France, Cannonau supposedly contains two to three times more antioxidants than other red-wine grapes. By incorporating Cannonau, Abi Spa says its unique 50-minute longevity session increases collagen production for firmer, younger-looking skin.
Maintaining a youthful appearance is just one facet of longevity treatments, which range from stress-reduction sessions like massage to nutritional support and sleep programs, Kriel says. Some retreats also offer medical services such as IV infusions and joint injections.
Keeping with the trend, Kriel is expanding Salamander Collection’s existing spa services, such as detox wraps and lymphatic drainage, to include dedicated “Wellness Rooms,” new vegan and vegetarian menu items, and well-being workshops. “Sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness will be a big focus for integration in 2024,” she says.
Skyler Stillings, an exercise physiologist at Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort—an adults-only wellness centre in Lanai, Hawaii—says guests were drawn to the social aspect when the spa opened in November 2021.
“We saw a huge need for human connection,” she recalls. But over the past few years, what’s paramount has shifted. “Longevity is trending much more right now.”
Billionaire co-founder of tech company Oracle Larry Ellison and physician and scientist Dr. David Angus co-founded Sensei. After the death of a mutual close friend, the duo teamed up to create longevity-based wellness retreats to nurture preventative care and a healthy lifestyle. In addition to the Lanai location, the brand established Sensei Porcupine Creek in Greater Palm Springs, California, in November 2022.
Sensei has a data-driven approach. The team performs a series of assessments to obtain a clearer picture of a guest’s health, making wellness recommendations based on the findings. While Sensei analyses that data to curate a personalised plan, Stillings says it’s up to the guests which path they choose.
Sensei’s core three-day retreat is a “Guided Wellness Experience.” For spa treatments, each guest checks into their own “Spa Hale,” a private 1,000-square-foot bungalow furnished with an infrared sauna, a steam shower, a soaking tub, and plunge pools. The latest therapies include Sarga Bodywalking—a barefoot myofascial release massage, and “Four Hands in Harmony,” a massage with two therapists working in tandem. Sensei Guides provide take-home plans so guests can continue their wellness journeys after the spa.
Sanctuaries for Longevity
Headquartered in Switzerland with hotels and on-site spas across the globe, Aman Resorts features an integrative approach, combining traditional remedies with modern medicine’s advanced technologies. Tucked behind the doors of the storied Crown Building in Midtown Manhattan, Banya Spa House at Aman New York—the brand’s flagship spa in the Western Hemisphere—is a 25,000-square-foot, three-floor urban oasis.
Yuki Kiyono, global head of health and wellness development at Aman, says the centre provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Aman’s customisable “Immersion Programs” consist of a three- or five-day immersion. “The programs encompass treatments and experiences that touch every significant aspect to create a path for longevity, from meditation and mindfulness to nutrition and movement,” Kiyono explains.
The spa’s “Tei-An Wellness Solution” features 90- to 150-minute sessions using massage, cryotherapy, and Vitamin IV infusions. Acupuncture is also on offer.
“With its rich history of Chinese Medicine, modern research, and the introduction of sophisticated electro-acupuncture medicine, acupuncture has been proven to assist with problems and increase performance,” Kiyono says.
Resetting the Mind and Body
Beyond longevity, “healthspan”—the number of years a person can live in good health free of chronic disease—is the cornerstone of Mountain Trek Health Reset Retreat’s program in British Columbia, Canada.
Kirk Shave, president and program director, and his team employ a holistic approach, using lifestyles in long-living Blue Zones as a point of reference.
“We improve our daily lifestyle habits, so we live vitally as long as we’re meant to live,” Shave says of the retreat. He built the program from an anthropological stance, referencing humans as farmers, hunters, and gatherers based on their eating and sleeping patterns. Food includes vegetable-centric meals sans alcohol, sugar, bread, or dairy.
Guests wake at dawn each day and have access to sunrise yoga, several hours of “flow” or slow hiking, spa treatments, forest bathing, calming crystal singing-bowl and sound therapy sessions, and classes on stress reduction—one of Mountain Trek’s primary goals. The program motivates people to spend much of their time in nature because it’s been proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to inflammation and disease when elevated for extended periods.
While most guests aren’t aware of how immersive Mountain Trek’s program is when they arrive, they leave the resort revitalized after the structured, one-week program. Set in the Kootenays overlooking its eponymous river, the resort and adventure promise what Shave calls a “visceral experience of transformation.”
“They’re interested in coming to be in nature,” Shave says of the guests. “They hit a wall in their life and slipped backwards, so they know they need a reset.”
This article first appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Mansion Global Experience Luxury.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’