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We are a nation of smartphone owners. 81% of Australians own a smartphone, and this figure is on the rise (1). Nearly 60% of the population consider it to be their 'go to' device, and the smartphone is increasingly taking over from other technologies. With over 2.5 million apps available over various platforms, if you can think of it, there's probably an app for it (2).

Can the same technology that allows us to order a pizza without moving our mouths help us to exercise anything more than our index fingers? The answer is an overwhelming yes.

Whether simply tracking your footsteps or demanding that you account for every minute of your day, integrating biofeedback from external hardware or walking you through a workout, health and fitness apps are here to stay, and they're big business. Data from mid 2014 shows that there were just under 7000 of these for the iPhone and about the same number available for Android users (3).

With so much competition and choice, it's hard to know which app is right for you and which will deliver the best results. We've chosen our favourite health and fitness apps to give you a head start.

My Fitness Pal

They say that weight loss is as simple as using more energy than you're putting in. Whoever 'they' are has conveniently glossed over what an enormous pain it is to count calories, let alone work out whether you're getting enough protein, too many carbs, or enough calcium. Thankfully, all you have to do is scan a barcode or type in a description to search the 3 million food items My Fitness Pal has on file, and you'll have the full nutritional profile of your meal, including vitamins, minerals, macronutrients, salt and cholesterol, in the palm of your hand. The app also lets you enter exercise and calculates the energy burned, and it keeps track of your calorie and nutrient intake. This is a great tool for anyone who wants to eat smarter, count their calories, or lose weight.

Great for: Weight loss, Monitoring nutrient intake
Available for iPhone and Android

Fitness Buddy

My Fitness Pal and Fitness Buddy have similar names, but they're worlds apart. Probably the best strength and weight training app around, Fitness Buddy is a journal, a reference guide, and a personal trainer all in one. Want to develop a particular body part, work a specific muscle group, or get out of a training rut? Fitness Buddy will cough up a tailored program from a database of over one thousand exercises, and animated diagrams will show you how to perform each movement flawlessly. Maybe you want to work out your own way - Fitness Buddy makes it easy to sort through exercises to find the one you want, and to plan your time in the gym for maximum impact and efficiency. The journal feature is a highlight and the easy to use interactive display lets you track and visualise your progress on a single screen. Throw the pen and paper away, this is the future.

Great for: Weight trainers, from beginners to elite
Available for iPhone and Android

Strava

Competition is a motivator, which the inventors of Strava knew when they came up with this app that has developed a cult following amongst cyclists and runners. Strava has all the features of a standard activity tracker, but on top of mapping time and distance, also records elevation, estimates calories burned, and can track heart rate with a compatible monitor. This makes it useful, but the true beauty of Strava is the social element. Routes are divided up into segments over which users can record their times and compete to be the 'King or Queen of the Mountain' ('KOM' or 'QOM' to those in the know) - an ongoing title bestowed on the user with the fastest time over a segment. Strava is an addictive app which can turn a commute into an event.

Great for: Cyclists and runners with a competitive streak
Available for iPhone and Android

ITGO Calorie

Interval training is the exercise of the moment, and ITGO Calorie is the app that will help you get the most out of it. This cleverly designed app is fully customisable to any fitness level, so it can be used by both professional athletes and people who can barely run round the block. ITGO allows you to design your own workout, set it at your chosen intensity, and program in a dual playlist that corresponds with the fast and slow intervals. ITGO Calorie superceded the original ITGO interval trainer app, and the new version can automatically design a program for you based on your bodyweight, chosen activity, and calorie goal. ITGO is versatile, user friendly, and makes pushing yourself until you feel like you're going to be sick just a little bit fun.

Great for: Interval training, particularly running-based
Available for iPhone

You Are Your Own Gym

If you're a frequent traveller, don't always have access to a gym, or want to get back to basics, this is the app for you. You Are Your Own Gym is an equipment free workout program which is suitable for for beginners through to experienced trainers. The exercises are based on techniques used by the US special forces in their training, interpreted by bestselling author and fitness instructor, Mark Lauren. The workouts can be performed anywhere and are quick enough to fit into anyone's schedule, and at the conclusion of each ten week program, most people see big changes, not just in their physique, but in their functional fitness. With over two hundred exercises and easy to follow instructions, this app will take away all your excuses.

Great for: Travellers, exercising at home, functional fitness
Available for iPhone and Android

Zombies, Run! 3

A far cry from your standard run tracker, Zombies, Run! Turns your boring slog round the block into a life or death situation, as you jog further and faster to collect supplies, escape the advancing undead hordes, and save humanity from the apocalypse. This app makes running a game, and features 120 missions, suitable for people at all levels. In fact, this is an ideal program for beginners and anyone who needs a little bit of extra motivation to get moving, and more advanced runners will enjoy the new 'Zombie Chase' interval training mode. Serious runners might want a run tracker with a bit more functionality, but if you have a sense of humour and a taste for adventure, Zombies, Run! Is a great way to get active.

Great for: People who need motivation, people who like exercise to be fun
Available for iPhone and Android

(1) Australian Media usage and preferences 2014. Deloitte. Reported in Frontier. http://frontieradvertising.com.au/homepage/deloitte-australia-media-usage-preferences-2014/ Accessed 12th December 2014.
(2) Number of apps available in leading app stores as of July 2014. Statista Statistics Portal. http://www.statista.com/statistics/276623/number-of-apps-available-in-leading-app-stores/. Accessed 12th December 2014.
(3) Dredge, Stuart. Health and fitness apps booming ahead of Apple's iOS 8 launch. June 19 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/19/health-fitness-apps-apple-ios-8. Accessed 12th December 2014.

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