Getting Fit for Less With Your Android Smartphone

After the roast turkey and mulled wine are packed away this Christmas, many Brits can be forgiven for heading straight to the gym and making a New Year’s Resolution to get fit. Yet an annual gym membership can cost upwards of £500 per year – hard to square up when you’re also making a New Year’s Resolution to save money and to get out of debt.

Thankfully, the wonders of modern smartphone technology have made it possible to work out and to get fit without going to the gym. You can exercise wherever and whenever it is convenient to you and you can even measure how your body is responding to exercise. Simply download some free applications on your Android smartphone and you’ll be on your way to getting fit without a £500 gym membership.

Getting Fit Using Your Smartphone

Gym memberships are often expensive – Brits waste over £37 million each year on unused memberships. Getting to the nearest gym may also be inconvenient for many of us: it might involve a drive across town for example. This all takes away from valuable time in the morning. And not everybody can afford to build their own gym at home

One of the best ways of getting fit is to integrate exercise into your daily life – for example jogging around the neighbourhood in the morning whilst you’re on your way to pick up the morning newspaper and a pint of milk.

One reason why its popular to work out at the gym is that we can keep a track of our progress – the treadmills will keep track of how far we run, how many calories we burn and whether we manage to reach the desired heart rate training zone (in order to improve your cardiovascular fitness, you should aim for your heart rate to reach around 75% of your maximum heart rate).

Going for a Run with Android

My favourite fitness application for Android is Sports Tracker (free). Set it up before you leave the house and the application will make use of your phone’s GPS tracking capabilities to measure how far you’re running, how fast you’re running and how many calories you’re burning. This is all displayed in a simple and easy-to-use interface.

Once you’ve finished your run, you can let your friends know about it through Facebook and Twitter – researchers have found that we’re more successful at keeping resolutions when we let other people know about them. All of your runs are also recorded in your “Diary” allowing you to measure your progress.

Measure Your Heart Rate Training Zone

Another thing that some gym treadmills do is to monitor your heart rate. This is how you can determine whether you are training within your target heart rate zone. On Android, this can be achieved using a clever little application called Instant Heart Rate (free).

Instant Heart Rate uses the camera and LED flash capabilities of your Android device to measure your heart rate. It’s dead easy to use: simply place your finger on the camera lens and it’ll tell you your current heart rate.

As your heart beats, blood is pumped around your body causing the capillaries in your finger to expand. This gives a small change in the colour of your finger which is what the application is looking out for when measuring your pulse. The LED flash simply provides a source of light illumination so it can all work. It’s essentially how medical pulse oximeters work.

Making your run a little more fun

Hopefully you won’t need persuading that running outside is more fun than running in a gym: not only can you get some fresh air but you’ll also be able to take in the sights and sounds of your local neighbourhood.

If you’re still looking to spice up your run, an interesting app to check out is Zombies, Run! It’s an augmented reality application which immerses you in the midst of a zombie invasion. The stories and missions are played out through your headphones and the only way you’ll survive is to run. The application makes use of your current location (via GPS) for storytelling.

Whilst this app might not be for everyone, it certainly isn’t your bog-standard run at a gym treadmill. Zombies, Run! costs just under £5 from the Google Play store.

Conclusions

At £500 per year, a gym membership certainly isn’t for everyone. Many of us would like to work out without the expense of a gym membership and with the convenience of being able to exercise wherever and whenever we want.

The Sports Tracker application for Android (free) will measure all of your workouts including how far you run, how fast you go and how many calories you burn. It will also help you to visualise how your fitness has improved over time and allows you to involve your friends and family in your workout routine.

The Instant Heart Rate application for Android (free) will help you in determining whether you’re training within your desired heart rate zone. Working out at around 75% of your maximum heat rate will lead to improved cardiovascular fitness in the long run.

The Zombies, Run! application for Android (£5) turns your daily run into an adventure that takes place around your neighbourhood. Who said that working out needs to be a chore, when it can be a game instead?

By making use of some of the latest Android apps, you can get fit for a fraction of the cost of a traditional gym membership. One of the best money saving apps of the year? I certainly think so.