The 5 best apps for building new health and fitness habits

There are thousands of apps out there that you can use to build better habits and get into shape.  I’ve tried about a hundred them.

Frankly, that was overkill.  You only need one general habit-building app, and maybe one or two specialized apps- like a running app or a meditation app, for instance- at absolute maximum.

Your choice of apps depend on your goals and needs- if you just want to track workouts, something like JEFIT or Bodyspace will work really well for you.  But if your main goal is to build fitness habits, then I recommend one of these five.


Formerly known as HabitRPG, Habitica turns your self-improvement goals into an old-school Nintendo roleplaying game a la Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior.

And I do mean it’s an RPG.  You program your habits into the app, and gain gold and experience points for doing the habits, or take damage for missing them.  Your character can be a warrior, wizard, cleric or rogue, and you can form a party with other people, turning your habits into a group monster-fighting exercise.

Habitica is innovative in the way that it combines every habit you’re working on into a single overarching game, and its overall aesthetic is brilliant.  Most of all though, the party system makes it a perfect choice for people who find they build habits most effectively when they have others to keep them accountable.


The only hardware-based option on this list, FitBits now come in a variety of models, with the most popular being the FitBit Charge 2.  FitBit records your heart rate, distance walked, and sleep time, estimates how many calories you burn each day, and the companion app can also be used to record things like food intake, body weight, and body fat percentage.

Using a personal health tracking device like FitBit offers two big advantages.  First, it automatically records the things it tracks, without needing any extra effort on your part to write stuff down.

Second, it’s the only solution that will directly calculate how many calories you burn.  If you have a weight-related goal- gaining or losing- FitBit will be a lot more accurate than trying to estimate how many calories you burn every day.


Fitocracy is a mobile app which combines two functionalities. First, it’s a fitness app that provides you with workouts, tracks your progress with those workouts, and uses a point system to gamify the experience.

Second, it’s a platform for online fitness coaching.  You can hire coaches through Fitocracy to write workouts for you and hold you accountable, and communicate with them through the app.

The coaches are trained professionals, but the level of attention they give to their clients varies a lot.  Programs vary from cookie cutter workouts that aren’t customized to you, to group coaching, all the way up to high-quality one on one coaching.

Zombies, Run!

I’m not even a runner, but I have to give this app a special mention because it actually managed to outdo Habitica for sheer creativity.  Zombies, Run! turns running into an augmented reality game about, well, running away from zombies.

The game uses audible cues to let you know when the zombies are coming and you need to run, and when the coast is clear and you can walk for a while.  It offers both steady-state and interval training programs, as well as over 200 “missions” and a zombie survival base-building mini-game. is similar in concept to Fitocracy, with a few key differences. First, it’s not totally fitness-focused.  It can be used to track any kind of habit, and the coaches on there include personal trainers and nutritionists, as well as meditation teachers, productivity and leadership consultants, finance coaches, and even addiction specialists.

Second, whereas Fitocracy focuses on providing workouts, focuses more on building habits- on doing things consistently first, and only later worrying about doing them right.  In my experience, that tends to be a more effective approach.

Third, the bar to become a coach is set higher.  Coaches go through a certification process, during which they need to successfully complete a coaching program offered by an existing coach, as well as successfully coaching at least four clients of their own.  Since they have to provide these clients on their own, only coaches with established practices are able to get accepted into

Fourth, all coaching is one-on-one, and there is a very high degree of engagement from the coaches.  Because of this, Fitocracy can often be cheaper, but has more consistently high quality in its coaches.

All these apps work.  Pick one, install it, and get started.