- ON THE CURVE Apps like Fooducate can scan barcodes and rate your food purchases - before you see results on the scale.
A commitment to health and fitness is not only ongoing, but on-the-go. Books, calorie charts and other stationary reminders are nice, but mobile apps are ever-present and can be interwoven into every daily activity. Here are five of the recent best apps for exercise, diet and mental clarity to download and try on for size.
Nike + GPS ($1.99) Fire up this application before your run, and it logs your distance, pace, total time and calories burned. It also plots your route on a map, not only showing you where you jogged, but pinpointing the exact places where you slowed down or sped up. Log feature allows users to add details about the weather, terrain, music and other in-motion musings. The app connects with the Nike+ website, where runners can get specialized training programs for marathons, half-marathons or 5k's.
All-In Yoga ($.99) If you don't have time or money to get to yoga class, clear some floor space and mine this app's 300-plus pose encyclopedia, complete with written descriptions, photos and videos. Choose a sequence from the "quick recipe" index covering a range of skill levels, from a 14-minute sun salutation to an 89-minute Shakti yoga intensive, or fire up the personal instructor function for a specialized class. For the latter, enter your age and weight, then choose a goal (like balance, flexibility or de-stressing), a level (beginner, intermediate, advanced or guru) and time (one–100 minutes).
FitnessBuilder (free, with upgrades) Detailed workout plans complete with number of reps per set, number of sets and number of seconds to wait between sets—plus a bulging library of exercises with photos, videos and step-by-step instructions—make this app an essential addition to any gym bag. There are features to set goals and measure your progress, a music library with hand-picked tracks, a nutrition section complete with a glossary of food terms and measurement tools (body mass index, basal metabolic rate), and a section that keeps users availed of the latest fitness news and research.
Fooducate (free) Break this app out at the grocery store, and it will grade the items in your cart, either giving you the green light or steering you toward more healthful choices. Scanning the barcode of a no-bake Oreo Jell-O pie mix, for example, summons a D grade and a detailed list of the product's deficiencies: it's heavily processed and contains trans fats, the controversial additive BHA and 7.5 teaspoons of sugar per serving. The app offers an alternative, too, gently suggesting a low-calorie, sugar-free black cherry Jell-O dessert instead. It has helpful brand profiles, "Package alerts!" if a box or bottle is small enough to consume in one sitting but the package contains more than one serving, and tips for avoiding BPA packaging.
Simply Being ($.99) "This is a time to do nothing, and simply be," a voice coos into your ear at the start of this app's guided meditation. "Letting go of everything you've been doing, letting go of everything you need to do." Listeners are instructed not to pay attention to the words, but to just let them wash over you as the instructor leads you through relaxation sessions of five, 10, 15 or 20 minutes in length, accompanied by a choice of music or soothing nature sounds.