Get fit with your phone in 2021


Whether you work at home, don’t like the idea of working out in front of other people, or don’t have the time and money to hire a personal trainer, you don’t have to abandon the idea of working out altogether. There are lots of roads to personal fitness, and some can be found right from your phone. Even better: you don’t need expensive equipment to use fitness apps either.

Whether you want to go for daily runs, do strength training, try easy yoga poses, or engage in HIIT (high intensity interval training), there is undoubtedly an app to help you do it — and some will even help you eat more nutritiously and meal plan along the way too. 

That said, all fitness apps are not created equal and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the myriad of options out there (Just type in fitness in your app store and see just how many options pop up.)  Plus, since many involve subscriptions, the last thing you want to do is try out a bunch (and spend a lot of money) before giving up because you can’t find what’s right for you. 

So what should you look for in a workout app? Here are some factors to consider. (There’s a lot more guidance on how much you should pay and other factors to consider after our picks as well.)

What’s motivating you?

It can take a while to reach your fitness goals, so you need something that makes you decide to hang in there and stick with your new routine. So before you jump in, consider what keeps you motivated and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you want an app that sends you daily reminders? 

  • Do you need an app that has a social element, like the ability to share info with friends (or even compete with them)? 

  • Do you need a community to encourage you and ask questions?

  • Do you want a fitness coach to check in with? 

  • Do you want something that allows you to unlock achievements? 

  • Do you want something that tracks your progress towards a bigger goal?

  • Do you need a subscription to make you feel invested? 

  • Or does the idea of giving back (with an app that donates to charity for every mile you run, walk, or cycle) feel more motivating to you? 

Whatever it is that makes you stick with your workouts, that’s the feature you need to prioritize in your search for the ideal workout app for you. 


Of course, it goes without saying that you need an app that works with your phone. But that’s not the only tech requirement. Some apps will also take advantage of everything your phone has to offer, like its GPS or accelerometer to track your progress. Other apps will also use your camera to help you make sure that you’re using the correct form for an exercise. 

In addition, some apps integrate or pair with other devices or apps, such as Apple watches, Fitbits, or footstep trackers. If you have one of those devices, make sure you find one that works with it. If you’ve paid for exercise equipment, look for apps that will offer ideas for how to use those machines. Or, conversely, if you don’t have any exercise equipment, look for apps that make recommendations for how to use the furniture in your home or just your body weight instead. 

Remember, the best app is ultimately about personal preferences

There are good apps and there are bad ones. But ultimately, when you’re picking from a collection of fitness apps, the “best” one will depend on your personal preferences, goals, and lifestyle.

So, to make your search a little easier, here are some of our favorites based on goal, experience level, and exercise type:

Lots of programs and workouts • Motivating • Family-friendly • Good for beginners and advanced athletes • Free • Audio guides from professional trainers

Most programs are premium

A comprehensive app that works for all types of athletes.

Nike Training Club

This app is great no matter what your fitness level or budget is.

  • Devices:
    Android, iOS
  • Free version?:
    Yes, but limited
  • Price:
    $14.95 per month

With over 100 workouts in its free version and many more in the premium version, this workout app is one of the most comprehensive there is. It lets you work on your fitness objectives with routines aimed at different body parts and fitness levels over 4-6 week programs. Plus, the premium offers fitness programs and nutrition guidance, as well as content from famous athletes.  

Features cardio, strength, yoga, and stretching workouts • Family-friendly with kid workout options • No equipment needed • Suitable for beginners and advanced • Works with other apps and devices • Can ask trainers questions

Requires subscription • No food tracking

A family-friendly, flexible app that’s perfect for beginners.


This app is perfect for beginners, thanks to its customizable workouts and access to experts.

  • Devices:
    Android, iOS
  • Free version?:
  • Price:
    $5 per month

With a variety of different kinds of workouts for all skill levels (including families) tailored to a variety of different fitness goals, Sworkit is great for beginners because its training plans don’t require any equipment or access to a gym and it allows you to find routines based on how much time you want to work out. You also have the ability to connect with personal trainers to ask questions — another perk that’s great for beginners who aren’t sure of what they’re doing. 

Gives back • Logs miles run, walked or cycled • Features different goals

Very simple fitness tracker • Not a lot of extra features • No routines or videos

Find the motivation to workout everyday with an app that gives back every time you do.

Charity Miles

This app motivates you because it donates to charity for every mile of activity you log.

  • Devices:
    Android, iOS
  • Price:

If you struggle to find the motivation to keep up your workout routines, this fitness tracking app is a great choice. It’s free to use, features a variety of different goals, and for every mile you log running, walking or bicycling, its corporate sponsors donate a few cents to nonprofits, such as the ASPCA, Habitat for Humanity, St. Jude’s hospital and more. 

Beginner friendly • Easy to use • Workouts that target specific muscle groups

Yoga only • In-app purchases

This app helps you stay on track with your daily yoga workouts.

Daily Yoga

With over 100 classes aimed at beginners and the experienced, this app will guide you through your daily yoga workouts.

  • Devices:
    Android, iOS
  • Price:
    Free to download, but with in-app purchases

Daily Yoga is a personalized yoga coach that offers over 100 different sessions, each based on the area of the body you’d like to work on and your experience level. The app is beginner-friendly and will connect you with others to ask questions. Plus, it will keep records of your workouts so you can monitor your progress. 

Quick workouts • Unlock achievements • Enables friend-connections • Option of paid subscription with additional features

Personalized plans only available with subscription • No longer workouts available

This app is ideal for people who don’t have the time to fit in a lot of time to work out at the gym.


This app features a variety of science-backed short workouts aimed at deriving maximum benefits.

  • Devices:
    Android, iOS
  • Free version?:
    Yes, but limited
  • Price:
    $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year

This app is ideal for people with busy schedules where it is too difficult to squeeze in time for longer workouts because you only need seven minutes to do any of these routines. Each workout is intense and requires barely any equipment, making it friendly for working out anywhere. 

Eyes-free Hands-free Audio coaching for a wide range of fitness levels • Different intensities available • Integrates with music library • Variety of workouts for running, cycling, yoga, and strength • Pairs with other health apps

Free tiers are very basic • No food or nutritional tracking • Has both monthly subscription fee and in-app purchases

This app features a variety of audio workouts and coaching sessions to help you meet your workout goals.

PEAR Personal Fitness Coach

An app that features eyes-free, hands-free audio coaching to guide you through your daily workout.

  • Devices:
    Android, iOS
  • Free version?:
    No, but 30-day free trial
  • Price:
    $5.99 per month plus in-app purchases

With a wide variety of workout packages and coaches, PEAR will coach you through your daily workout no matter what your fitness level is or how intensely you want to exercise. It also plays with a variety of different trackers so you can track your activity. After the free trial, you will need the premium version to take full advantage of what it has to offer. Note that premium has both a monthly subscription fee and in-app purchases. Pear works with both iOS and Android. 

Short, intense HIIT workouts • Track nutrition • Combines fitness and health goals into one app • Personalized suggestions • Grocery lists

With weekly workouts and meal planning, this app helps you hit all your health goals.


Ideal for people looking for an all-in-one fitness tracker.

  • Devices:
    Android, iOS
  • Free version?:
    Yes, but very limited
  • Price:
    $79.99 per year

With weekly HIIT workouts and meal planning, this app is designed to help users reach their fitness and weight goals together. All the exercises it offers are short but intense and its meal plans are customized to meet your dietary and fitness preferences. It even comes with grocery lists and suggestions for which foods to avoid. 

Ideal for weight-training • Gives post-workout feedback • Customizable • Library of exercises • Peer-support available • Great for competitive trainers

No food tracking • No nutrition advice • Fee required for best features • Limited activities besides strength training

Ideal for weight-training, this fitness app is perfect for anyone who wants to work out (and compete) with friends.


An ideal fitness app for those most interested in weight-training.

  • Devices:
    Android, iOS
  • Free version?:
    Yes, but limited
  • Price:
    $7 per month

If you’re looking for an app to help you create custom weight-training workouts, this is your app. You can track your workouts with friends, you can record your workout step by step and even get post-workout feedback. Best of all, it features a whole library of weight training programs. 

Easy to use • Tracks distance, pace and overall time • Good for experienced runners and beginners • Tracks biking and fitness • Syncs with Fitbit and Apple watch

Simpler fitness app • Limited features • Some users report lost data

Great for runners and cyclists looking to track their distance, pace, and time.


This tried-and-true running app is accurate, easy to use, and comes with a wide array of features.

  • Devices:
    Android, iOS
  • Free version?:
    Yes, but limited
  • Price:
    $39.99 per year

Runkeeper has long been a popular running app, and it’s easy to see why. It lets you set goals, track your progress, as well as your distance, pace, and overall time, and create personalized training routines. Plus, it syncs with other apps and devices, including Fitbit and Apple Watch — and you only have to pay if you want the premium features. 

Doesn’t duplicate workouts • Provides clear, guided instruction • Total-body workout • No equipment needed

Focused only on barre • Better for beginners than pros

An ideal app for people looking just for barre workouts.

Barre by Down Dog

This barre app is great for beginners and advanced users looking for clear instruction.

  • Devices:
    Android, iOS
  • Free version?:
    Yes, but limited
  • Price:
    $8 per month

Inspired by ballet, Barre is a great total-body, low-impact, high-rep workout that is perfect for beginners or people looking for fitness routines that don’t require a lot of equipment. It features a variety of workouts (so many that you won’t be given the same workout twice) and it helps you build confidence. 

How much should I pay for a workout app?

Some apps can offer fairly expensive subscriptions, but just because they cost money doesn’t mean they’re worth it. Money doesn’t always equal quality. (And at a certain point, if the cost gets too high, you might want to just consider a gym membership.) 

You can get some very good workout apps that cost under $10 a month and they’ll come with all the tracking capabilities, personalized routines, and workout videos you need — especially if you’re just starting out or don’t have a lot of room in the budget. In fact, some are even free. 

That said, while free sounds amazing, it’s worth remembering that most great apps do require a subscription of some kind. Free apps (or free versions of apps that offer subscriptions) are often limited in what they offer, have lots of bugs, or are weighed down by ads that get in the way of the user’s experience. 

Consider your current fitness level

Not all apps are geared at novices, and the last thing you want is to pay money for an app that will ultimately overwhelm you or make you give up because the workouts are simply too difficult for you.

Instead, you’ll want to be honest with yourself and examine where you’re at, right now, with your fitness. Then, look for an app that meets you where you’re at. An app that teaches you the basics and shows you how to do the exercise correctly is worth its weight in gold because it will show you how to do the exercises with good form, not overwhelm you, and it will keep you motivated because you’ll feel your progress.

If you are a beginner with a strong desire to grow, consider getting an app that isn’t just aimed at beginners. Instead, get one that grows with you, offering a range of exercises and routines that get progressively more difficult as you advance. This will give you something to aim for in your fitness journey and will keep you invested for the long term.

Think about your fitness goals

People decide to work out for a myriad of different reasons: Maybe you want some easy stretching exercises that will help you relax, maybe you want to build muscle, or maybe you want to just get healthier. 

Whatever your reason is, it will affect what app you choose and the fitness app that works best for you. Some are family-friendly, allowing you to work out with the whole family, while others are very clearly aimed at people who want to lose weight with cardio or HIIT. Others are all about building muscle. So before you begin your search, think about what you want the fitness app to help you do. 

For example, do you want to track your weight loss? If so, consider an app that doesn’t just give you workouts, but one that also offers nutritional advice, meal tracking, or meal planning tips so you can use a multi-pronged approach to reach your weight loss goals. You might also want to consider an app that gives you access to a trainer, coach or nutritionist who can help customize your workouts and weight loss goals. (Access to trainers and coaches can also be helpful for beginners when you’re learning correct form.)

Meanwhile, if you’re just looking for workouts that help you feel better in your own body, perhaps you want to consider a lower-intensity workout app or a yoga app that will focus more on stretching and relaxation instead of more intense cardio or weight routines.

Similarly, if you’re training for a marathon, you’ll likely be more interested in a distance tracking app to record your runs, your timing, and your progress. But if you’re looking to build muscle, you’ll want an app that focuses mostly on strength training exercises. 

Your lifestyle matters, too

Lots of people start an exercise routine, but then end up giving it up because they just can’t find the time to work out. Obviously, apps that help you work out at home (vs. the gym) can help with that a little, since you no longer have to drive somewhere. Plus, a lot of apps require little to no specialized equipment to do a workout routine. 

However, that’s not the end of the story. If you find it difficult to carve out an hour in your busy workday, you’re never going to try that new 60-minute workout routine recommended by your fitness app. Similarly, if you have a family to take care of, you’re not going to do a routine that you can’t do with your children in the same room.

That’s why it’s important to pick an app that matches your lifestyle. For example, if you’re super busy from morning to night, opt for an app that has a whole library of short workouts, like those that can be done in seven minutes or less. Or, if you have kids at home with you all day, look for a family-friendly app with exercises for kids too so you can all work out together.