Gadgets of every shape and size have flooded the health and fitness market for decades. Things are a little more streamlined these days, with a multitude of apps for your smartphone that can replace the multiple monitors and devices that were formerly strapped all over your body.
But these can quickly get pricey as well, making your exercise time feel more like a financial obligation than a chance to relax and keep your body healthy. So if you’ve got a smartphone and are looking for a few fitness apps that don’t skimp on the quality, here are 3 of the best that are free of charge:
Pedometer, by Arawella
There are tons of pedometers out there, some of dubious quality that are little more than keychain accessories, all the way to medical-grade devices that will set you back over $100. But if you’re just looking for something that will help you get an idea of how many miles your favorite backwater hike is, this free app is perfect. It does a great job of keeping an accurate pacing for an average-sized adult—although if you’re a bit on the short side, or pushing past 6’5”, you’ll want to adjust it a bit—and it also gives you a rough idea of your general speed, calories burned, and more.
Instant Heart Rate, by Azumio
Keeping track of your heart rate during exercise is definitely a craze these days. Despite the hype, it really is a great way to monitor your cardiovascular improvement over a several month cycle, as well as giving you a heads up on any possible issues you may want to have checked out with a doctor. Many of the stand-alone heart monitors require you to strap a sensor around your chest while you exercise, but the Instant Heart Rate app works by pressing your thumb against your iPhone’s camera lens, turning it into a temporary sensor for your pulse.
ACTIVE, by The Active Network
ACTIVE is a slickly-designed app that serves as a hub for athletic events of any kind. With user-uploaded data, it offers a library of local events and clubs for every kind of outdoor need. So if you’re on vacation or in a new town and are looking for a group to hike or bike with, you may find it on ACTIVE.
These apps will help you justify taking your smartphone on your next 10-mile trek into the wilds. Plus, you’ll save money by not buying things like individual pedometers and heart rate monitors, making both your body and your wallet healthier.
John is a tech blogger who has never successfully taken his own pulse. He writes for Protect Your Bubble, an online insurer of smartphones—including Samsung’s new Galaxy S4—who can help protect your gadgets from all the hazards that await them on the hiking trail.