The best fitness habit apps for busy parents

mobile phone photoWhen I talk to my friends and family about staying fit, the two key words that keep coming up are time and motivation. Especially when you have young kids who are mess-making time-sucks. It’s Murphy’s Law that the minute the washing is done, the kettle is on and you are reaching for your exercise bra, someone will start crying (possibly yourself!)

To de-stress my life, I started researching habit apps. After all, my mobile is the only other thing besides my child that is in my pocket or close to hand. When I do get knocked off my stride, I need a gentle reminder – preferably one I don’t have to write down or think about. The apps also had to be available for Android as well as Apple (I have geek friends on both sides of the tech divide), easy to use and pleasurable to keep using. Oh – they also had to have a free version. My spare cash is currently being spent on wine and calpol.

Fabulous: Motivate Me! Meditate, Relax, Sleep

Android version
iPhone version

Pros:

  • Science-based reward app, designed to keep you on-track.
  • All-in-one buffet of good habits, including exercise, healthy eating, meditation and morning routines.
  • Beautiful interface with regular motivation messages. You also get to celebrat.e each milestone or set new goals.
  • Goes beyond basic reminders: the app aspires to be your electronic life coach.

Cons:

  • The app is very structured: if your aim is just to start up a new fitness regime you will be put off by the other actions.
  • You can’t craft detailed goals for yourself without upgrading to the paid version.
  • You may be frustrated by the pace of change: the app aims to build up a number of small, healthy habits. The first “challenge” is to drink water three days in a row.

I found fabulous a fantastic introduction to regular goal-setting and a good way to push myself into fitness in the mornings. It’s very easy to set up – the app literally walks you through each step and gives you letters to motivate and inspire you. It’s great to have the extra stimulus and the app reminders on your phone mean you don’t have to worry about missing your routine. Every time you log into the app, there is a visual layout of your progress, alongside meditation exercises, fitness routines and written commentary.

Ultimately, I did move away from Fabulous – partly because it’s not that flexible. As I did more research, I came to prefer the Miracle Morning routine that I adapted to my family. In addition, the paid app costs £10 per month for HIT fitness, sleep-tracking and habit-building within a motivational wrapper. It’s not a bad little app, but I already had substitutes on hand with Android Sleep, OmVana and the Seven App.

Seven App

Android version
iPhone version

Pros: 

  • A fast little app that does exactly what it says on the tin: 7 minutes of fitness with no frills or fluff.
  • You choose your notifications, so if you don’t complete it in the morning, you can have a reminder set for midday.
  • No equipment needed, beyond a sports bra and a chair (and a mat, if you are picky).
  • The app tracks your progress and reminds you when you skip a day
  • It’s easy to pause – just tap the screen. Perfect for when you are attacked by toddlers.
  • If you upgrade to premium, there are a variety of workouts to choose from, ranging from weight-loss to flexibility.
  • You can link it up to Google fit or share on social media if you have friends doing the same.

Cons:

  • Another “freemium” app. You can access the basic freestyle workout or the free daily version after watching a short video ad (I usually put the kettle on and rescue the kids during the extra 30 seconds).
  • You do need some basic fitness education before using this app: e.g. how to lunge safely and the proper way to do a plank. The app does not communicate the best way to do each exercise: there is a model showing the movements, but it’s up to you to know your limits.
  • No one for mothers who are just getting their mojo back after birth: some of these exercises are NOT recommended if you have diastasis recti, a recent cesarean or birth injuries.
  • It can get repetitive: most of the workouts are based on a variation of weight-bearing moves such as squats, lunges and jumps.

I actually love this app as it’s one of the least irritating on the market and it fits nicely into my morning routine. I generally get the kids breakfast and then do the workout in my pyjamas (with a sports bra on) whilst they are eating. 7 minutes does not sound like a lot, but I have noticed tighter, more toned muscles and I have lost half an inch around the waist. I definitely have more energy than when I was doing ad-hoc exercise. It’s a lovely one to mix and match with – I usually add in a speed walk on the way back from school or hula-hooping in the garden if it’s nice. I am also seriously considering the paid version: the monthly version is £10, but if you pay annually it reduces down to £6.67, offering better results, access to a personal trainer and the chance to save and store your favourite workouts. I will report back with an update if I do.

Lose Weight in 30 days

Android version
iPhone version

Pros:

  • Clean, clear app with day-by-day progress.
  • Easy to set reminders at the time and day of your choosing.
  • 10 different morning routines to chose from, along with evening stretches.
  • You can integrate your diet programme with the app
  • Excellent charts showing weight loss progress, workout history and calories burned.

Cons

  • Meal plans are linked to Hello Fresh ads: (a bit offputting). You can choose between vegetarian and omnivore options, but not if you have any diet intolerances, such as gluten or dairy.
  • Not that much variation in routines: the focus is more on eating.

I have been trialling this app on a friend’s recommendation. It is a lovely, clear app that is easy to set up and use, with weight-bearing exercises, reminders and easy-to-follow fitness progress. Having said that, it is aimed at people who want to lose weight as well as tone up – so it’s perfect if you enjoy cooking from scratch or just need a little nudge to get back off the doughnuts and on to the apples. The app includes explicit meal plans and a shopping list so you don’t even have to think about what you eat. My friend had tweaked hers to accommodate Slimming World but I think you could do the same if you had a food allergy. My main grumble with this app is that it’s only for 30 days: after that time you would have to go elsewhere or reset it.

So, there you are. 3 apps and you fitness done in under 10 minutes each day. Unless the baby eats your phone, you have no excuse!

 

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