Exercise doesn't have to be excruciating, as Pokémon GO proves. Wearables and Fitness Editor Richard Easton rounds up the most fun fitness apps for iOS and Android.
There’s no doubting that not everyone finds the idea of getting fit a particularly fun concept. For some, slogging away on the treadmill or repeatedly knocking out monotonous curls in the weights room is about as enjoyable as pulling teeth.
But what if I told you there was a way to have fun while getting fit or, better yet, to get fit without even realising it? Luckily for you, this beautiful dream is a reality thanks to some innovative and genuinely fun apps to make you fitter, stronger and healthier – all without the boredom.
Whether you’re looking to get running, start lifting, or a combination of both, there are plenty of engaging apps out there to make exercising more fun and enjoyable. We’ve put together a list of some of the best.
1) Pokémon GO – Android and iOS (Free; In-app purchases)
Pokémon GO, the augmented reality game from Nintendo and Niantic Labs, is a bit of a trojan horse where it comes to fitness. If you’re unaware of this current cultural behemoth, the premise is simple. Pokémon are out there in the real world waiting to be captured, meaning you actually need to get out of the house to explore your neighbourhood in the quest to be a Pokémon Master. Yes, the aim still is to ‘catch ‘em all’.
Not only do you actually need to visit different locations in order to find Pokemon, but Pokestops and Gyms are dotted around the country for you to encounter as well. Then, there are the Pokemon Eggs that require you to physically walk around in order to incubate them, giving you even more incentive to get those steps in.
Video: What is Pokémon Go?
Since the game was launched in the US and Australia (and unofficially in the UK), Twitter has already been flooded with tales of knackered legs from all of the walking. Just make sure you keep aware of your environment while you’re out there hunting for Pokémon. The game is free to play, but there are in-app purchases if you want fast track your way to becoming a Pokémon master.
2) Zombies, Run! – Android and iOS (Free; In-app purchases)
If you’re looking to start running, what’s more motivating than being chased by a herd of zombies? That’s the concept behind Zombies, Run!, which combines an immersive audio drama with missions to get you out hitting the streets. If you’re not an outdoor runner, the app works on treadmills, too – you'll be amazed by how easy it is to pick up your pace when the undead are eye you up for dinner!
Added incentives include needing to pick up mission-critical supplies. If you find running boring, the combination of the story narrative, compelling sound effects and unexpected scenarios can instantly make running a more exciting prospect.
Related: Best Android apps
The game’s initial four missions are free, with additional missions unlocking each week. Otherwise, you can subscribe to a Pro membership to unlock more missions faster.
3) Fitocracy – Android and iOS (Free; In-app purchases)
Fitocracy takes a gamified approach to fitness, whether that’s cardio or resistance training. You can think of it as turning getting fit into a real-life role-playing game (RPG). But instead of levelling up a digital avatar, you’re levelling up yourself by getting fitter and healthier.
It's essentially an exercise and workout log, except every movement – whether that’s a deadlift or a kilometre run – is assigned points. Just like an RPG, earning enough XP (experience points) means you can level up, giving you an added incentive to push yourself a little harder and to train a little more regularly.
Other tropes of RPGs like quests are also featured, so if you're struggling to get motivated, you'll be presented with objectives to push you to get bonus XP. There’s a community aspect involved as well, so you can follow your friends to see their progress and what type of workouts they’re doing. You can even challenge your friends to duels.
Related: Best smartphone
Even if the gamification element isn’t necessarily your cup of tea, the exercise database within the app is in-depth, meaning you can get guidance on different lifts if you’re involved in weights training. The app makes a great way of tracking your workouts and progress so you can identify whenever you achieve a new personal best, too.
Fitocracy is free to use but you can become a Fitocracy Hero for £4 a month, or £35 a year, which unlocks the aforementioned duels as well as additional features.
4) 7 Minute Superhero Workout – Android and iOS (£2.59)
“Superheroes aren’t born, they’re trained.” That’s the slogan behind 7 Minute Superhero Workout. This app is actually from the same folks behind Zombies, Run! so they already have plenty of experience where it comes to making fitness fun.
The idea is that you’re the pilot of a AEGIS One battlesuit, which is a bit like the Jaegers in the movie Pacific Rim. The app uses your smartphone or tablet’s front-facing camera to track your movements in order to count your reps and movement.
The app only requires bodyweight exercises, so it’s perfect for doing at home if you don’t have any equipment. Movements range from wall sits to squats and staples such as the push-up to give you a full body workout. Different exercises are grouped together as part of missions, too.
To add to the fun, 7 Minute Superhero Workout is compatible with Google Chromecast so you can watch the action unfold on the big(ger) screen. Like with any fun fitness app worth its salt, there are plenty of medals and achievements to make the game that much more motivating.
Watch The Refresh: The best tech gossip and reviews every week
Got any other suggestions? Let us know in the comments.