By Jason Cross
Staying at home as much as possible for more than a month can be rough on our bodies. Junk food is everywhere, it’s easy to snack as much as you want, you can’t go to the gym, going for a run feels somehow irresponsible, stress is sky-high…
There are lots of apps that can help with that, and Heath & Fitness is one of the most popular categories on the App Store. If you take a look at the listings, you’ll see that nearly every app is free—or so it would seem. In reality, the vast majority of fitness apps are only free to download but require an in-app purchase subscription be useful. Many don’t even function at all without one.
Look closely at a lot of “free” fitness apps and you’ll see there’s nothing free about them.
That’s money you may not want to or be able to spend right now. So we put together this list of five fitness apps that can help you stay healthy at home. One is totally free, and the others offer in-app purchases but have plenty to offer without spending a penny.
Back in 2013, a paper published by the American College of Sports Medicine investigated a special circuit-training routine for maximum full-body benefit in minimal time using only body-weight exercises. It was featured in The New York Times, and before you knew it, the seven-minute workout was born.
These days you’ll see a lot of seven-minute workout apps. Our favorite is probably Seven. It’s going to aggressively push a “7 Club” membership at you, but just hit the X button in the upper right to ignore the pitch and you can use the simple, clear, attractive app to perform basic seven-minute workouts all you want. The subscription gives you the ability to set custom workouts and unlocks a lot more exercises, but you can do things like schedule workout reminders and connect the Apple’s Health app for free.
Seven (free, in-app purchases)
The Nike Run Club app is very popular among runners, but stay-at-home orders are not the best time to work on your mile pace. Nike’s got another nice workout app, Nike Training Club, that offers tons of exercise routines you can do at home. Some require modest equipment like dumbbells, but many do not.
There’s a nice Apple Watch companion app that helps guide you through your workout, too. On March 29, Nike made the premium membership (usually $14.99 per month) free “until further notice,” but we would recommend this app even if it hadn’t. The membership gives you access to 4-6 week programs, some nutrition and wellness guide stuff, and on-demand classes. But even the free tier offers plenty of good at-home workouts with excellent videos.
One nice thing about Nike’s free access premium access: You don’t have to sign up for a “free” subscription that you’ll forget to cancel and be billed for later. Nike just unlocked the free content for everyone.
Nike Training Club (free, in-app purchases)
The FitOn tagline is “Fitness is always free,” but there’s a pretty expensive $69.99 per year FitOn Pro subscription they want you to buy (currently on sale for $19.99). Ignore it. It gives you some meal plans, recipes, and premium music, but you don’t need any of that.
Enter your birthday, height, weight, desired exercise frequency, and goal, and FitOn will set you up with a whole fitness class regimen. Each workout is a guided video class with a trainer, and you can link your Apple Watch to see your heart rate overlaid on it.
There are tons of on-demand workouts in a bunch of categories along with regularly-scheduled live classes you can tune in to. There really is a whole lot on offer in the free tier; this is a rare example of an app that seems to treat its free tier as the main product and not just a demo for the subscription service.
FitOn (free, in-app purchases)
Here we have a rare fitness app that is free! Really, truly free. No in-app purchases, no premium tier, no merch to buy… free.
You have a list of various Yoga routines to choose from, like “beginner yoga,” “butt toner,” “inner peace,” or “core blast.” Each one starts with a list of the poses you’ll need to know: If you have no idea how to do one, tap on it for a written guide along with a clear YouTube video to show you the way.
When the workout begins, you’re treated to sedated music and a pleasant voice that walks you through the poses, with basic diagrams and a timer to let you know how long you’ll have to hold it.
There are a few ads—gotta pay the bills somehow—but they never interrupt a session with one. If traditional workouts aren’t your thing and you just need to make some time each day to stretch, flex, and breathe the stress away, Yoga for Beginners is just the thing.
Yoga for Beginners (free)
Working out at home is one thing, but if you don’t eat right you’re not going to be healthy, and the best way to eat right is to keep a food diary. Under Armour bought MyFitnessPal back in 2015 and has done a great job maintaining it as the best food diary app in the business.
A huge user-submitted database of foods helps you add home cooked meals and fast food items, and the reliable bar code scanner will effortlessly add nearly any packaged food. You can set goals (like “lose 1 pound per week”) to set calorie goals and see fat, carbs, and protein consumed each day.
A premium membership is required to see the breakdown by meal, set different goals for different days, or follow one of the many meal plans. It also removes ads. But as a simple and reliable way to make sure you’re not eating too much junk and have a healthy mix of carbs, fats, and proteins, the free version is all you need.
MyFitnessPal (free, in-app purchases)
This story, “Stay in shape at home with these 5 free fitness apps for iOS” was originally published by
Jason has written professionally about technology for over 20 years. His goal is to figure out how complicated technology works and explain it in a way anyone can understand.
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