Best Free Health Apps to Be Healthy in the 21st Century

Apicha Community Health Center Mar 15, 2016  

Apicha CHC

We'll be the first ones to admit that being healthy can be tough sometimes. To stay on track, we've created a list of top health apps to help keep you (and us) in check.Maintaining a healthy diet usually means keeping a "food diary" and tracking the nutrition value of the food you eat, and how much water you drink. And when trying to develop a healthy lifestyle, it is important to track how much you are exercising, what kind of exercises you're doing, and for how long. All of this becomes critical when you are talking to your doctor about your diet and exercise habits. 

All of that sounds like a lot of work.

Fortunately for us, we live in the 21st century, and we have these things called smartphones, which have these applications. These "apps" are pretty good at making tedious tasks like keeping a food diary and tracking exercise pretty easy.

 That being said, health apps have become a dime a dozen, and not all of them deliver what they promise in terms of funcitonality and ease-of-use. To help you find the best free health apps, we've created this guide to follow depending on whether you are looking for iPhone health apps versus Android health apps. 

Best Free Health Apps

iphone health appsBest Nutrition Tracker - MyFitnessPal - Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker (iOS & Android)

☆ (4.5 star rating)

Pros:

This app is one of the highest rated in the Apple Appstore for counting calories and keeping a food diary. It boasts over 5 million food options in its database so that you don't have to manually input all of the nutrition information for each meal you eat.

However, potentially the biggest pro of this app is the ability to use the built-in bar code scanner to scan the grocery store bar code of any product and get the nutrition information that way. 

iphone health appsTo set up your account, the app will collect your general demographic information like age, gender, weight and height. It will then ask you some lifestyle questions, like how generally active your lifestyle is, what your goal weight is, and your goal timeline to reach that weight. The app will then create an ideal daily nutrition schedule for you to follow in order to reach that goal.

The app mainly monitors your calorie intake, but it also tells you the nutrition facts of your food, like amount of protein, sodium, and etc in what you're eating and how that compares to what you should be eating.

One other pro is that this app is also available for free in the Google Playstore and other Android app platforms, so if you change phones, you won't need to start from scratch with another app.

Cons:

iphone health appsThis app describes itself as a calorie counter and diet tracker, and that is what it is best at. It does have some activity tracking functionality, but it is not robust to any extent. The app will not automatically track your steps. You can manually input any cardio or strength exercises you do, like jogging on the treadmill or doing 30 bench presses. More often than not, you will need to input the time spent and calories burned yourself though. 

As you can see from the screenshot, in order to offset the cost of the app being free, you will see a lot of advertisements pop up on the app. You can choose to purchase the Premium version of the app. Along with eliminating the advertisements, the Premium version also includes things like additional nutrition reports of the foods you eat and etc.

However, if you can stand the ads, the free version of this app will probably provide all the functionality you would need. 


Are you concerned that your diet and exercise lifestyle may be impacting your health? Request an appointment with an Apicha CHC primary care provider today.


 

iphone health appsBest Activity Tracker - Stepz - Pedometer & Step Counter for Tracking Steps (iOS)

(4.7 star rating)

Pros

If you're looking for a basic app to run in the background and track your steps throughout the day, this is the app for you. Similar to the MyFitnessPal app, Stepz asks for basic demographic information like gender, weight, and height, so setup was very easy and only took 30 seconds.

Stepz can also access the Apple Health app that comes standard with every iPhone so that it can compile historical data of your steps as well, so you get a more complete view of and don't lose any data.

The way this app counts your steps is by running constantly in the background, which can drain battery, and nobody wants that. However, one big selling point of this app is that it has been specifically designed to use as little battery as possible while it runs, so you shouldn't see as big of an increase in battery usage as you might with other apps.

Cons:

This app is very basic.  It doesn't do much besides count your steps and tell you how many calories you've burned. So if you're looking for an iPhone health app that is more of an all-in-one, this isn't it. 

This app is also iPhone-specific, so if you get an Android phone down the road, you won't be able to transition over your historical steps data.


 

android health appsBest Free Personal Trainer - Nike+ Training Club (iOS & Android)

★★★★★(4.8 star rating)

Pros

Where MyFitnessPal was the app that focused on diet and nutrition, this app focuses on exercise and fitness. The Nike+ Training Club app designs a training and fitness plan for users.

The big selling point for this app is that most of the exercises it suggests do not require weights or other fitness "accessories", like hand weights or weight balls. This means that you don't have to go out and buy a bunch of things just to follow the workout plan.

The app asks you the same cursory things as the others, like gender, age, weight, and height. It also asks how familiar you are with fitness training so that it can develop a training plan based on that level. That way it's not advising a new training beginner to attempt 20 Superman pushups and hurting themselves.

android health appsYou can also choose to view all workouts, which are categorized based on what you would like to achieve. You can choose to Get Lean, Get Toned, Get Strong, Get Focused, or just view the popular workouts and mix it up. 

The app also offers the ability to create a 4 week "program", which you can customize based on what you're trying to achieve: Get Lean, Get Toned, or Get Strong. The app will build a four week training program, with either a 15-30 minute exercise or a jog/run for each day, that helps you achieve that goal.

Cons:

This app focuses less on general fitness and more on fitness training and developing a training plan.

If you've been looking for a training program that you don't have to pay for, but will offer some type of guidance as to what you should be doing based on what you would like to achieve, this is the app for you.

If you're not into fitness training or aren't crazy about following a strict fitness regime (don't worry, you're not alone), then this isn't the app for you.


 

Best Activity Tracker - Google Fit (Android)android health apps

☆ (4.0 star rating)

Pros:

Google Fit tracks your steps similar to Stepz for iOS. However, GFit automatically recognizes running steps versus walking steps versus biking steps, without the user having to manually set the activity up. 

You can also ask it to track your jogs on a map, so can see the path you took and how far you went on each jog that way. (This functionality also allows you to make cool, possibly Star Wars-related designs on your maps, if you so choose).

The app also uses your activity to tell you how many calories you've burned, similar to Stepz for iOS. This app is created and supported by Google, so for those of you who run your entire life via Google, this app allows you to continue that inter-connectedness.

Cons:

The reviews for this app reflect that recent updates may have made the app a little buggy and inconsistent, so that is something to be aware of!

Also, similar to Stepz, this app is not a do all. While it has slightly more functionality than Stepz with the ability to map your running paths, it is not intended to be a personal training app like Nike+ or a nutrition tracking app like MyFitnessPal. 


 

Best Do-Everything App - Fitbit (iOS & Android)iphone health apps

☆(3.5 star rating)

Pros:

So right now you might be kind of confused, why would we include an health app that requires you to have a fitness tracker? Well, you don't actually have to have a Fitbit wearable device to download and use the app. When you sign up, you simply choose the option from the app saying that you don't have a Fitbit tracker yet. 

From there, the app will ask you the usual questions, gender, age, weight, height, and after creating and validating your account, you are all set!

iphone health appsIn the absence of a fitness tracker, the app will use your phone's pre-loaded health app to track your steps and activity level.

You can track your calories through the app in a similar way to MyFitnessPal by either scanning the barcode, searching for your food item, or creating it yourself and manually inputting the calories. The app will utilize your demographic factors as well as your fitness lifestyle to advise your eating habits.

You can also tell the app that you would like to lose a certain amount of weight in a certain time frame and it will develop a food plan with advised calorie count.

You can also create exercise and fitness goals through the Fitbit app, whether that is 10,000 steps per day (the number of steps recommended by the American Heart Association) or 3 miles per day or exceeding 5,000 steps every day for a week. 

Along with inputting goals and calorie intake, the app will also let you input other exercise activity, like weight training or a 30 minute jog. You can also input how much water you've drank that day; more water equals more health bonus points.

iphone health appsIf you're the kind of person that likes to turn fitness into a social event, you and your friends can all get the app and collaborate together, compete against one another, and motivate each other. Best part is that it doesn't matter whether your friends are iPhone or Android users, since the Fitbit app supports both platforms.

Cons:

This app is the best overall app for a reason! The only big con is that without the specialized Fitbit fitness tracker, the app will not be able to track your heart rate.


 

Staying fit is super important to your overall health. A healthy diet and lifestyle can help prevent the onset of medical issues like heart disease and diabetes. Most importantly, you'll have increased energy and a boosted self-esteem. It's a win-win!

If you're still not sure where to start with your health journey, or just want more guidance than a health app can give, we would love to help! Please reach out and request a primary care appointment with us here at Apicha CHC! 

Apicha Community Health Center | LGBT Health Center in NYC 


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