In today's nonstop world, prioritizing a workout can be challenging. Whether because of work, children, a spouse or friends, a sweat session often falls second to other responsibilities.
But physical exercise is just as important.
According to Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical practice and medical research group, regular exercise helps control weight, combats health conditions and diseases, improves mood, boosts energy and promotes better sleep. Mayo Clinic recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise.
If you're looking for a convenience factor, the answer is most likely in your pocket. Your smart phone has access to hundreds of workouts, allowing you to control where and how long you work out. Many let you personalize the type of workout - strength, cardio, stretching - and the intensity.
Here are five smartphone apps, recommended by fitness experts, that provide a variety of exercises and are user-friendly. Another benefit: They are all free.
The health and wellness app lets a user customize a profile with information including gender, age, weight and weight-loss goals. The app has everything one needs for a healthy lifestyle, including a food and water log, calorie counter and progress tracker. On the app, users can locate nearby fitness classes in a specific area and scroll through fitness articles on the homepage.
Dru Connolly, fitness specialist of the Highlands Ranch Community Association, said that nutrition and exercise go hand-in-hand, which is why MyFitnessPal is one of her favorite apps.
“Exercise alone can work, and meal planning/dieting alone can work… However, designing your meal plan and exercise program to work together is best,” said Connolly, who was a competitive figure skater for 20 years and studied exercise physiology and human performance in college. “My Fitness Pal has so many foods loaded into it to make it easy for anyone to be diligent with meal planning. That, in addition to its fitness components, are what make it my favorite so far.”
For more information, visit myfitnesspal.com.
Nike + Training Club
The Nike+ Training Club app acts as a personal trainer, equipped with more than 130 free workouts ranging from 15 to 45 minutes. The app lets users choose components of their workout, including the intensity and the use of bodyweight, light equipment or full equipment. The app also offers fitness plans, including Start Up, a four-week program to get in shape; Lean Fit, a six-week program to build endurance; and Gym Strong, an eight-week, full-body program.
Workouts are designed by professional athletes, trainers and celebrities, including tennis professional Serena Williams, soccer superstar Alex Morgan and singer Ellie Goulding.
For a look at some of the workouts, Williams and comedian Kevin Hart co-created a 15-minute workout called, “The Hart Serena” that focuses on back and arms. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles designed a 30-minute workout called “The Balance Program” that centers on total body strength.
For more information, visit www.nike.com/us/en_us/c/nike-plus/training-app.
The yoga app is rated five stars in Apple's App store with reviews including “thoughtfully designed,” “beginner yogi friendly” and “great at-home practice.”
Down Dog provides a studio-like experience with an instructional video and music playlist for each sequence. The app is easy to navigate and lets users customize settings, including the level and duration of the sequence. Each time a user practices, the app generates a new yoga sequence.
Down Dog guides users through vinyasa flow yoga, a range of poses that combine strength, balance and flexibility, according to Down Dog's website.
“Vinyasa yoga also places a strong emphasis on the transitions between the poses, creating a flowing practice that's synced with the practitioner's breath,” the website says.
For more information, visit downdogapp.com.
Men's Fitness, a magazine with exercise, health and nutrition advice, coined this app its Best Comprehensive Trainers app of 2016.
“Sworkit—a portmanteau of `Simply WORK IT'—takes a holistic approach to strength workouts without any equipment, and includes a custom workout builder designed for veteran athletes and fitness professionals to create and share custom routines (appropriately nicknamed `playlists') from the app's library of 170 exercises,” mensfitness.com says.
The fitness app lets a user choose what type of workout he or she desires, such as strength, stretching, cardio, Pilates or yoga. The user may also choose the duration of the workout, making it easy to squeeze in a sweat session around a busy schedule. The app offers video demonstrations by trainers along with verbal cues.
For more information, visit sworkit.com.
The highly-rated app provides guided meditation and breathing exercises for those who need to de-stress. The app's backdrop is rippling lake water with grassy hills and snow-capped mountains.
Money Magazine, a financial magazine published by Time Inc., named Calm one of its Best Free Health and Fitness Apps of 2016, noting the benefits of taking a 40-second break to focus on nature. Calm offers simple meditations and soothing sounds, including a crackling fireplace, thunderstorm, evening crickets and more. The app also has a variety of bedtime stories.
Calm's website says the goal of the app is to bring “clarity and peace of mind into your life.”
For more information, visit calm.com.