3 Free iOS Apps For a Healthier You

| Free on iTunes

I love a good exercise workout. It's one of the few times when being hot, sweaty, and exhausted feels great. It doesn't matter to me if my sweat comes by way of running, weight training, tai chi, or other physical activity.

The end result is that my joints ache, my muscles tremble, my heart pulses at an intense, but comfortable rate, my lungs expand more fully and contract more deeply. There's an increased level of adrenalin and endorphins in my blood that both heighten my perception and give me a pleasant natural high.

Free on iTunes

The result of my exercising is good, too. I maintain my weight, muscle tone, and flexibility while moderating my mood and enhancing my general wellbeing. In other words, I look and feel good well after my exercise routines are done.

The problem is that I'm lazy. I do lead a busy life, but there is no excuse for me not to allot time to general training. As it is I walk, run, or hit the weights sporadically and castigate myself for missing each opportunity to workout, then promise myself to do better tomorrow, or next week.

Sound familiar?

I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this.

We all know that we should get in more exercise, but too few of us actually work out regularly. The problem then becomes self perpetuating. We don't workout, which reduces our physical tone, which means it'll hurt more when we do exercise and no one wants to hurt, so we put it off until we think about it again. We start feeling worse about ourselves and on it goes.

How about this: Let's make a mid-year resolution to exercise more. Even if you already put in a few scattered hours a week tossing around some weights or walking like I do, let's set a goal to do something physical daily, even if it's only 15 to 20 minutes worth.

What good will 15 to 20 minutes of exercise do?

We'd be doing them, and doing so is more than what we would have been doing otherwise, which is nothing. Also it will at least maintain whatever we've gained physically. Who knows. We may find an extra 10 minutes to add, and that is a nice workout!

I have 3 free apps the may help us in our quest to get healthier.

Please note that I haven't had a chance to look into these apps fully. One was recommended to me while the others I grabbed because of the high review ratings they received. I intend to revisit these after actually using them for a while.

FitStar [67.6 MB, iPad, iOS 5.1 or later, Developer: FitStar Labs, Inc.]
OK. Let's get this ball rolling with an app that may surprise you with its detail and quality.


FitStar may seem a bit over the top at first. It's intro is full of extremely healthy people doing extremely healthy exercises that I think is meant to inspire. What I saw worried me, frankly. Push-ups with hand claps? High-knee jogging? I haven't done a handstand since I was 12.

Ignore the glam and push on through. After creating an account, what you'll find is an app that tries to tailor itself to you and provides exercise routines based on your goals, and how much you're willing to pay.


The app offers a free four-week maintenance routine and a test to see where you are physically. You can then buy any of the other routines offered as in-app purchases.

An instructor leads you through a series of exercises which you can play on your iPad. If you follow the prescribed plan you should reach your goal. Each session has timers, music you can select, and an indicator showing where you are in the set.

This looks to be a very good way to get moving. I'm going to use it for the four-week maintenance routine and see how it goes. I'll tell you more in a month.

Tabata + Lite [33.5 MB, all IOS devices, iOS 5.0 or later, Developer: The Fitness and Bootcamp Timer Technologies B.V.]
Back in 1996 Dr. Izumi Tabata studied training regiments of top Japanese athletes and discovered that short intervals of intense training yielded better results than the more traditional extended, but moderate training. Now you can reap the benefits of Dr. Tabata's study with Tabata + Lite.

Tabata+ Lite

This is a simple app, it's a special timer set up so that you can exercise in intervals to give you the best results. Any exercise will do as long as you push yourself to the limit during the intense intervals, which is only 20 seconds long, then rest for 10 seconds. You do this 8 times in succession to complete a set.

So, pick several exercises that focus on muscle groups, kick off the timer and rock and roll. There's no more to it than that.

Tabata+ Lite

The app includes an information screen that explains the theory behind Tabata Training, and it is ad supported. Still, if all you need is a decent timer, Tabata + Lite may be what you're looking for.

SleepStudio[466 MB, iPad, iOS 5.0 or later, Developer: Zentro Media LLC]
OK, you've trained. You muscles and joints are complaining, but you feel great. Reward yourself with a good night's sleep. The problem for many folks is that it's hard to shutdown. That's where SleepStudio comes in.


I like a well designed app, and SleepStudio is done right. The screen displays calming scenes all active and keyed to the time of day. In the upper left corner is a clock with basic weather info for your location. Across the bottom of the screen are four basic controls; Connect Me which takes you to a message center for communicating with other SleepStudio users, a journal, and an spot for selecting music and such.

Put Me To Sleep where you'll find Soothing Sounds, Sleep Guides, and my favorite part, Read to Me.

Wake Me Up where you can select the sounds and other features designed to wake you without stress.

Finally there's My SleepStudio where there's a place to control you music and video selection and access an online blog.


Back to the Read to Me section for a moment. Here a small selection of public domain books are available that were read by volunteer reader via LibreVox Service. I'm going to talk about this service more in an upcoming article.

There far more to SleepStudio than I can go into here. It's a great app, so grab it.

That's a wrap for this week.

All you wannabe barbers will want to grab Toca Hair Salon, this week's Free App of the Week. It looks like a lot of fun.

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Good stuff, Vern.

I particularly like this first app, and your warning about its introduction. I think one of the strongest selling points of starting a new regimen is seeing healthy, fit people using it; the obvious message here being that if you follow this regimen, you too can be like this. Not surpisingly, seeing these same healthy and fit people can also be one of the hardest and most off-putting aspects of starting that new regimen, particularly if they are doing something that is clearly beyond your performance level. From a marketing perspective, it is difficult to pitch a programme to all levels of ability, even to all customers who are interested in a specific regimen. I think some of the best programmes out there are those that divide their offerings into beginning, medium and advanced routines, but these are usually not free.

In your introduction, you also do something that exercise programmes should do, but often don’t, namely warn people that the benefits are gradual, even if substantial or even dramatic. One not only has to stick with it and be consistent (sadly, you may never see meaningful results if you are sporadic and infrequent), you have to understand that, at the beginning, it’s going to hurt. You’re going to feel sore, achy, and slow, but in time you’ll feel that inevitable sense of greater strength, balance and stamina, and come to look forward to that endorphin high that follows a good workout, and leaves you with that overall sense of clarity and well-being.

I just had this discussion this weekend with my daughter who is trying to develop a summer exercise regimen. Thus far, it has been unsuccessful, due to another common mistake. She kept choosing routines that were not sustainable without a great deal of bother and extra non-workout time (like driving a long distance to get to an Olympic pool). I advised her to choose something she could do right here, right now without any fuss, like going for a walk or a run, or simply going up and down the stairs; then add the other things as time permits as nice supplements.

Just my two cents worth, based on having to advise parents how to chose sustainable regimens for their kids and themselves.

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