Smartphones are great tools for helping us to get and stay fit. They give us a neat way to monitor our progress towards our fitness goals, and, perhaps more importantly, they serve as reminders to get off the couch and go do those things we promised ourselves we would.

They’re also excellent monitors thanks to all those fancy sensors manufacturers are packing in these days, almost to the point where they don’t need any extra gadgets to monitor how far we’ve walked or the number of calories we’ve burned.  Almost – some of the best apps still need heart rate monitors or sensor-stuffed wristbands to deliver the most accurate statistics, but for the most part we can get away with using free apps and no extra hardware to achieve our fitness goals.

Where the best fitness apps excel, though, is in connecting us with like-minded people and introducing a competitive edge to our exercise regimens that helps to keep us focused and motivated. Nothing makes people run harder and further than knowing if they do, they’ll beat their friends’ times.

Below you’ll find five really good apps to help you exercise smarter, better and more socially than ever before, ranging from paid-for super-apps to free ones that require extra hardware to work effectively. Enjoy!

Cyclemeter GPS

Cyclemeter

R39.99 – iOS

Cyclemeter GPS is a feature-rich stat-tracking app for cyclists built specifically for iPhones and iPads. It tracks, maps and records your rides and compiles all of the data it collects into easy-to-read graphs and tables. It even gives you the option to specify what kind of bike-riding you’re doing, whether it’s a race, you’re going for distance or you’re just pedalling your heart out at the gym. Despite the name, it also tracks other physical activities like running and mountain biking, and interfaces with a wide range of third-party sensors like heart rate monitors to give you even more information about your activities.

“It’s not just about cycling”

Endomondo Sports Tracker Pro

Endomondo

From R55.00 –  Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry

Endomondo tracks you while you run and cycle, and collects stats like your average speed, the distance you covered, the amount of calories you burned and even shows you where you’ve been on a map in real-time. The free version gives you access to basic tracking data, social features that let you broadcast your workouts to Facebook, audio cues for hitting milestones and heart-rate tracking if you own a compatible heart-rate monitor. The Pro version gives you useful graphs to help chart your progress, lets you set and beat personal times and calorie and workout duration targets. It’s a full-featured fitness app that’s well worth the 40 bucks.

“Free good, Pro better”

Argus Motion and Fitness Tracker

Argus_edited

Free – iOS

Argus does absolutely everything you could ever want from a fitness app. It tracks a bunch of physical activities along with your caloric intake and the number of steps taken in a day, it helps you watch what you eat – literally – by letting you store pictures of the food you’ve eaten, and tracks daily goals like steps taken, sleep and how much water, tea and coffee you’ve had. It supports third-party heart-rate monitors as well, and its slick interface will show your progress to your goals with easy to understand graphics.

“Fitness tracker deluxe”

Fitbit

Fitbit

Free – iOS, Android

The Fitbit app uses a range of activity-tracking gadgets like the Fitbit Flex and Fitbit Force to generate the biometric data needed to tell you how you’re doing, but it also works on its own, just in a more manual fashion. Without a tracker you can use the app to log your weight, enter your glucose levels and latest blood pressure readings and track your calorie intake. If you have a Fitbit device, you can use it to keep tabs on steps taken, exercise duration, calories burned and many other useful stats and upload it all directly to the Fitbit website when syncing your tracker with its base station over Bluetooth.

“Better with trackers”

Fitocracy

Fitocracy

Free – iOS, Android

Fitocracy turns working out into a game that challenges people to better one another’s performances with nicely-integrated social features. Miss a workout and post about it, and get a flurry of encouraging responses from the community; likewise when you better someone else’s workout stats. Fitocracy helps you track your various workouts, and it also has a ton of useful resources for fitness devotees from runners to swimmers to weightlifters.

“Useful exercise resource”
Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.