There was once a time -- really, truly, and not all that long ago -- when people merely exercised. They didn't wear watches. They didn't wear heart-rate monitors. They didn't record every move. Phones were for conversations and tended to stay attached to a wall at home.
If you exercise these days, though, chances are pretty good you track it in some way. The website digitaltrends.com estimates that 100,000 apps are dedicated to health and fitness and that globally the market is worth about $4 billion.
Lists abound about which apps are most popular, which are easy to understand and which take more time to calculate than you may exercise in a week. But what do real people get from them? We asked some aficionados.
NAME Stan Eigenbrodt, 49
NUMBER OF APPS USED At least six
FAVORITES Lose It! and Runkeeper
PRIMARY ACTIVITY Weight training and running
"I'm sort of a tech person," says Eigenbrodt, an attorney. "I like playing around with my iPhone. I like having information. I just got a Polar Beat wireless heart-rate monitor, which has a Polar app and talks to Runkeeper. Now when I'm running, I can do so from a metabolic standpoint." Eigenbrodt started out with Lose It!, an app which, at its most basic, tracks food intake. He liked the app, its information and most especially the discipline it has taught him.
"I can outeat any workout," he says. "In a lot of office environments and certainly this one, almost every day someone is having a birthday and there's cake or muffins. If I'm not writing down what I eat, it's easy not to think about it and to just eat."
NAME Bree Redwine, 51
NUMBER OF APPS USED Three
FAVORITE My Fitness Pal
PRIMARY ACTIVITY Running and weight training
"I did start out using more," Redwine, a mother of four, says. "I then just really looked at what I needed for my life and lifestyle and realized I needed something quick and practical and efficient." My Fitness Pal was her first app. Then she bought a Garmin vivosmart fitness band and, she says, "my world opened up." The apps connect; she records everything she eats and drinks as well as her weekly weight. The watch monitors her heart rate, her movement, her sleep patterns.
"I'm a weird person," she says. "I wanted to see everything." Knowing her stats has improved the way she eats and trains, she says.
NAME Dan Gray, 45
NUMBER OF APPS USED At least a dozen
FAVORITE My Fitness Pal
PRIMARY ACTIVITY Running
"I was one of those guys growing up who was picked last for the kickball team," he says. "I discovered running about five years ago." But while training for a marathon, he was surprised to be gaining weight.
"That's when I realized I must be doing something wrong, but couldn't put my finger on it," he says.
He asked a running friend who had lost a lot of weight how he did it. The answer changed Gray's life: My Fitness Pal.
"Anyone I'm friends with can see what I eat," he says. "By putting in what I eat as I'm eating it, I found myself making small calibrations in order to get under my calorie limit. Once I started developing good eating habits, I started layering on other things, like tracking the exercise." He does that with several apps; among them Pact.