Over and over again, research has shown that one of the best ways to help you want to stick to your workout plan or new diet is involving other people in your plans. Social media fitness apps may be one of the best ways to do this, but you need to find the app that works best for you!
Some of the most oft-repeated pieces of advice include “tell everyone you’re watching what you eat!“, “join a fitness class!“, or “make plans with a friend to go for a run in the mornings!” While there certainly isn’t anything wrong with these ideas, they aren’t always compatible with modern lifestyles – what if your only other friend who runs at the same speed as you lives in a different time zone? Or what if you work from home and don’t have co-workers to keep you away from the candy bowl?
Over the last few years there has been an explosion of YouTube fitness channels, countless articles, and even subreddits dedicated to fitness. There are many healthy living apps, but apps that are rooted in social connections between users are best suited to filling in the gap between expert recommendations and the realities of your lifestyle.
Summarizing all of the fitness apps available would be nearly impossible, but it’s easy to break the available apps down into three basic categories:
- Apps that connect you to your off-line friends and family
- Apps that connect to your existing social media accounts
- Apps that connect you to strangers with similar goals
While there may be some overlap between these categories, each app does tend to focus on one of these aspects, with its other functionalities take a back seat. As with most things that influence your lifestyle, there isn’t going to be a perfect healthy living app, or even style of healthy living app, that will work for absolutely everyone.
Here we’ve listed out some of the pros and cons of each category as well as an app that exemplifies that category. Hopefully this list will enable you to find the app that will most easily integrate into your individual lifestyle, and help you to achieve the goals that you have set for yourself.
1. Apps that Connect You with Friends and Family
There is no replacing the relationships that you have with your friends and family. For this reason, these individuals can be some of your best supports throughout any significant lifestyle changes that you make. Social media apps that focus on using these relationships to improve success can be some of the most powerful in changing your habits, and can also be a lot of fun!
However, these apps can also be intimidating to use if you are not surrounded by supportive relationships, or if those around you are uninterested in moving towards a healthy lifestyle.
Fitbit is one of the most widely used app that connects wirelessly to an electronic pedometer (now available in multiple styles with a wide range of functions!) and compares your stats (including steps taken, stairs climbed, calories eaten, and/or weight lost) to those of your Fitbit friends.
Fitbit is a great way to improve your fitness while competing against friends and family – some large companies have even begun implementing the use of Fitbit as a health initiative for their staff! You can wait for the weekly leaderboard to come out every Sunday night to see who has become champion, or engage your friends and family in a set challenge like the “Workweek Hustle” for additional motivation.
Apps that are intended to connect you with people in your “real” life may be the best choice for you if you enjoy competing against people you know, want a way to keep your supportive friends and family in the loop about your training through a platform dedicated to fitness, or find that your best motivation comes from engaging people close to you in your lifestyle changes.
2. Apps that Connect to Your Existing Social Media Accounts
While apps dedicated to fitness and healthy living are able to provide a number of great features, if no one else you know is using them they can fall short of their original purpose. If you want to stay engaged with your real-life friends, but they are not interested in using healthy living apps themselves, then choosing to connect an app with your existing social media accounts is a great way to still involve them in your goal setting, progress, and successes.
Now, there is a caveat to this – people posting their fitness activities on general social media networks can be a pet peeve for a number of users. Consider making a Facebook friends list specific for those that you want to be involved in your fitness activities, and sharing your updates only to them.
Nike+ is one of the most ubiquitous apps for fitness, especially since it began partnering with Apple’s technology. There are many features of Nike+ that are helpful for your training. It tracks stats from your runs, allows you to complete challenges, and also has a coaching feature that leads you through a targeted program for specific race distances and running levels.
The social aspect of the Nike+ app is integral to its design. It allows you to share the completion of your runs through Facebook, Twitter or Path. An in-app camera allows you to add a photo to your share without leaving the app. As well, you can choose to “Get Cheers” from your Facebook and Path friends – a cheering noise will sound over your music in real time as your friends like your post.
Apps that are intended to connect you to your friends through an existing social media network are a great way to have all of the benefits of the support you want from your close social circle without the potential effort involved with making them download (and use!) an app they may not be interested in using for themselves.
3. Apps That Connect You to a Community of Strangers
As wonderful as it can be to have support from your existing friends and family, there are a lot of situations in which being able to work out with a community of individuals that you do not know is a better fit. These apps are great for people who are exercising at a level different than those around them – you may want to have more technical discussions about weight training, or have someone else to talk to who is also starting to exercise with zero experience.
These apps do take more individual dedication than those that involve your off-line friends. After all, the motivation of an online community is only effective if you choose to stay engaged. Similarly, the level of interaction and investment that you put into an online community generally dictates the benefits you will receive from using the app.
Apps such as PumpUp are designed specifically for those who love talking about their workouts on social media and who also enjoy being inspired by the accomplishments of others.
The interface of PumpUp looks as it resembles Instagram in both its appearance and functionality, but it features three different feeds. A “New” feed allows you to view the newest photos posted, a “Popular” feed lets you see the posts that have been interacted with most recently, and a “Following” feed allows you to view photos only from those users that you choose. You can track your exercise with the app, and post photos with descriptions to share with your followers.
Apps that are intended to create a community amongst like-minded people who may never meet otherwise are a fantastic resource for those looking to make changes in their lifestyles. They are a great choice if you love using social media to connect, and are interested in sharing your fitness activities with others who will understand your progress.
Do You Have a Favorite Social Exercise App?
Having outside social influences can be one of the determining factors in how successful you are in implementing an exercise program or lifestyle change over time. Healthy living apps have been improving rapidly, and will likely continue to get better with the information provided by Health Kit on iOS 8. However, the kind of app that works best for you will depend on the kind of social connections that best fit your lifestyle and personality.
Do you have a favorite social exercise app? Have you found them to be helpful in inspiring you to reach your fitness goals?