If you’re looking for a gym-free way to get moving, fitness apps could become your ticket to working out. There are hundreds of apps available that cover a wide variety of exercise plans, support different fitness levels and build online communities. They’re easy to download to your smartphone or tablet and, even better, many are free.
Health Canada recommends that adults of all ages get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity. They suggest sessions of 10 minutes or more at a time twice a week, and activities that work your major muscle groups.
As we get older, says Colin Milner, CEO and founder of the International Council on Active Aging, fitness is about finding activities that you enjoy doing and that support your physical condition and needs. That means fitness could be a guided aerobics class, yoga postures done in a chair or a rigorous walk in the woods — it’s up to you.
Here are seven free get-fit apps we like, available for both Android and iOS platforms.
The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults 65+, released by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) last fall, show what a healthy day should look like for everyone: move more every day, limit sedentary behaviours to eight hours or less, and aim for seven to eight hours of good-quality sleep.
- ParticipACTION: Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021, ParticipACTION continues to draw on the latest science and original research to provide health and fitness information and workout routines for all ages and levels. Simply scroll through the app for motivating tips, articles and instructional fitness videos. Set personal goals on the app and track the time you
spend exercising too.
- FitOn: While FitOn’s claim to fame is that its workouts are created by celebrity trainers, the app includes a section of routines for seniors. Choose from cardio, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), strength, dance, yoga, Pilates and even barre (ballet) classes. Workouts vary in length and minimal equipment is required (you might need a chair for some). One nice feature of this app is that you can invite friends to the workout via video conferencing and get fit together.
- Map My Walk: This is a great option for people who love to walk. Rather than taking the same path every time, you can use the app to show you popular walking routes in your area and try them for a change of pace. Map My Walk also lets you track workouts and review distance, speed, duration, steps, calories burned and elevation.
- Charity Miles: Here’s a way to work out and give back: With this app, every mile you walk, run, bike or even dance earns a donation (10 to 25 cents per mile) from a corporate sponsor for your chosen charity. More than 40 charitable organizations are listed, including the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Michael J. Fox Foundation and Habitat for Humanity. There are also opportunities to form teams and work out together.
- Daily Yoga: If your goal is to have an every-day routine of strength and mobility activities, this app will help. It provides different yoga classes in a weekly schedule and sends reminders. There are more than 100 yoga and meditation sessions for people of all skills levels to choose from. The Easy Yoga for Beginners program is a great place to start.
- J&J Official 7 Minute Workout: If you’re a traditionalist (as in, you love regimented, gym-class-style exercise), this might be the workout for you. The quick, high intensity workouts from Johnson & Johnson are effective and equipment-free. They include moves like jumping jacks, wall sits, pushups, crunches, stepups, squats and planks, which you do for one minute each. With this app, it’s best to start with the beginner programs and take breaks as necessary.
- AllTrails: Want to get out for a hike but not sure where to go? This app will show you nearby trails to hike, bike or run, and the search can be filtered by length, rating and difficulty level (and by dog- and kid-friendliness). Once you’re on the trail, you can use the tracker feature to measure time and distance and see your progress along the route using your smartphone’s GPS.
is this fitness app for you?
This handy checklist will help you decide if your chosen program is right for you. The more you check off, the better the fit.
- This is activity/exercise I enjoy.
- The activity/exercise is functional and will help me do other things in my life.
- The program is easy to follow on a small screen, and cues are clear and well demonstrated.
- Exercise options are provided for different fitness levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced).
- The app lets me personalize information and keep track of my progress (which is great for motivation).