The beginning of a new year has the potential to be the beginning of a new you. Whether you want to make better food choices, lose a few pounds, get into shape, relax, or quit smoking, your Apple iPad can help you keep those New Year's resolutions for as long as you need.
If you're new to yoga and don't really know where to get started, this is the app for you. It is divided into two main parts, a database of yoga poses and an area where you can create your own programs or choose from a variety of readymade programs. The pose database in particular is impressive, with large photos, videos, muscle diagrams, and audio directions.
The instructions are all quite clear, and with the ability to filter poses by ability (from beginner to guru) and type (sitting, standing, etc.), it's easy to find exactly what you're looking for. If you're on the road quite a bit and don't have a 3G iPad, you may want to tap the Download All Content button in the Options section, which will download all of the videos and audio instructions to your device. That data will take up roughly 150 MB in space, but that's better than finding out that what you want to see isn't currently on your device when there's no Wi-Fi in sight.
FitClick Diet & Workout Tracker ($3.99, universal)
FitClick is a food and exercise tracker that allows you to enter every meal and snack you eat, as well as logging your physical activity. In order to use the app, you must first set up a free FitClick account, choosing a username and password, entering your current and goal weight, birthday, and gender. Once you log in, you will see your calorie balance for the day, which is automatically updated as you enter your meals.
This app isn't anywhere near as polished as the LiveStrong app reviewed below, but it does have one very interesting/useful feature--demonstrations of more than 800 different exercises. Enter an exercise name or keyword and you will be presented with a list of options. Choose one and you will receive step-by-step instructions of how to perform the exercise, with pointers on good form and technique. The instructions are accompanied by YouTube videos that are fairly-low in video quality, but quite good at explaining exactly what you need to do.
If you're fairly new to working out and need the detailed instructions, FitClick might be a good choice for you. If you're just looking for a food and activity log, there are better, more user friendly options available.
Fitness Class (free app, classes purchased individually)
Like some of the other apps in this roundup, Fitness Class requires a user account, or you can log in with your Facebook account. The idea here is to provide access to all of the latest fitness videos through your iPad. You can purchase individual classes or bundles on a wide variety of topics, from strength training to yoga, using either a 30-day "class pass" or purchase for unlimited access. All class rentals and purchases are handled as in-app purchases through your App Store account.
When you tap on a class icon, you will get more information about the class, including the difficulty level and your projected calorie burn if you've already entered your weight into your profile. Some class summaries list the required equipment, while other classes don't--the Pilates ab class I rented for this review didn't mention any equipment needs, but when I started the video I was told I would need a balance ball, a resistance band, and a workout mat. The videos themselves are extremely high quality, and are comparable to what you might have purchased on VHS or DVD in the past.
All of the classes are streaming video at this time, so if you have access to Wi-Fi or a 3G connection wherever you're going to work out, Fitness Class could be the app for you. The developer is currently working on a download option for offline workouts, but a timetable hasn't been released so there is no way to know when this feature might be available. In all other respects, Fitness Class is an interesting concept that works well. If you're easily bored by doing the same old routines, get Fitness Class and find something new that will keep you motivated and on track toward your fitness goals.
Fitness for iPad ($3.99)
This app includes a food diary, a workout diary, and a database of exercises with full instructions. This portion of the app is quite nice, with tabs at the top to filter exercises by body part, muscle group, or equipment type. Each exercise includes photos, audio directions, a video clip, and a chart that shows which muscles are engaged. You can also tap on the history button to see when you have performed the exercise if you have been logging your workouts in detail.
The food diary portion of the app is rather limited, and reminds me of older programs in that it is slightly confusing trying to pick the right choice for each food. I also found that many items had serving sizes listed in grams instead of in ounces, even though my preference was set not to use the metric system.
Fitness Library for iPad ($4.99)
If the layout of this app looks familiar, that's because it's from the same developer as the popular Cocktails HD app. Unlike most of the other apps, this is really a reference book for weight training. It doesn't include any audio or video prompts, but it does include a deeper level of detail for each exercise.
Step-by-step instructions and the accompanying photos illustrate the proper form for each exercise, and also point out common mistakes to avoid. Introductory articles offer information on whether a gym membership or a home gym is best, suggested equipment, common misconceptions about weight training, nutritional concerns, and similar topics. This is a good reference for those who want to focus on form and who appreciate detailed written instructions.
FoodMeter Free (free, universal)
This app is an interesting departure from many of the other healthy eating apps on the App Store. Instead of encouraging you to log everything you eat, it instead provides instant feedback on your food choices. Enter the barcode from the food container or search for a particular item or restaurant menu entree and the app will instantly give you a reading on the food.
I tried it out with a can of Coke and was told that "this food item won't be injurious to your health, however, don't overindulge." The response to a box of cookies was less impressive, as the item was correctly identified but wasn't in the nutritional database. I was presented with a huge list of options, from taro and banana chips to potato chips and other snack foods. It should also be noted that the serving sizes were listed with the metric system, which can be confusing for folks who aren't too familiar with how 100 grams stacks up to the imperial system.
FoodMeter Free is limited to five inquiries per day. The 99-cent Food Scanner app is the upgrade to FoodMeter Free, and adds additional features such as unlimited queries, the ability to scan bar codes with the iPhone 4 camera, and support from registered dietitians. The concept is cool, and can help you make better food choices. We all know that chocolate chip cookies should be consumed in moderation, if at all, but the app can make those choices clearer and easier to make without having to read through all of the nutrition facts and ingredients on every single label.
iFitness HD ($4.99)
This app is another instructional app, with a large database of exercises with photos and step-by-step instructions. There is a video clip illustrating each one, but sadly those video clips do not include audio instructions. You can filter exercises by area of the body, muscle, or equipment, and you can also add your custom exercises to the database. Create your own workouts by adding exercises from the database, or use one of the routines included with the app, which cover everything from weight loss and ab definition to ultimate arms and business travel (no equipment) workouts.
Detailed logs are available so that you can track your progress for the day, the past week or month, or all the time and you can export your logs via email. A basic food diary section is included, though the developer recommends using MyNetDiary Pro for those who are truly serious about tracking their food intake. A weight log, BMI calculator, and body measurement section is also included. If you want to sign up for a free iFitness account, all of your records will be automatically backed up and synchronized with the iPhone version of the app.
iFitness HD is a complete package for workout buffs. My only small complaint is that the app works only in portrait mode, not landscape. With some improvement to the food tracking section, it could become the only health & fitness app you need; as iFitness is best suited to folks who are more interested in working out than in watching every bite they eat.
LiveStrong Calorie Tracker ($2.99, universal)
This is one of the easiest calorie/activity trackers to use I have ever found. Each day you build your "plate" by entering what you eat and what you do using databases for both food and fitness activities that are so extensive, the process is made simple and pain-free. Everything from restaurants to TV dinners to individual foods are included, and you choose the level of detail you want to provide, such as the time of day and the meal or snack the food represents. Fitness items include the time and duration as well as optional distance and heart rate information.
Sign up for a free LiveStrong account and you'll find that all of your information syncs between the iPad and iPhone versions of the app. You can also access it via the Livestrong.com web site on your computer if you choose to sign up for a free LiveStrong account. The web tools are even more extensive, with detailed intake totals for calories, protein, carbs, fat, cholesterol, and fiber. While the LiveStrong Calorie Tracker app doesn't have all of the features you'll find on the web site, it is still worth the small price to have access to such an easy to use food and fitness journal. You're much more likely to stay on track with your goals if you can enter information on the go instead of waiting to get back to your computer.
If you're serious about tracking your daily food intake, you need MyNetDiary Pro. This app covers all of the bases, starting with your user account, which includes your current and target weights, your height, gender, and activity level. Once you have an account, you'll find that the app has six tabs. Your plan includes the basic information used to set up your account, plus targets for fat, carb, and protein consumption. Daily food is where you enter your meals and snacks, and the process is a snap--just start typing in what you're eating and the choices from the database will narrow down accordingly until you are able to tap on the right option. The next three tabs track your exercise and offer analysis on both daily and all-time records. The library is where you'll find helpful articles on nutrition and healthy eating.
What sets this app apart from the other food calculators is the extreme ease of use. You don't have to struggle to fit yourself into a weird user interface; everything is touch perfect right from the start. If you want to mark particular meals or foods as favorites, you can; the app will analyze your eating patterns and, after a few days, you'll find that you won't have to search the database as often as at the beginning. You can add custom recipes as well, which is great if you're preparing fresh foods and don't have all of the nutritional information for the finished recipe.
The exercise area is more bare bones in comparison to the food-tracking portion of the app, but it gets the job done for any true workout fanatic. MyNetDiary Pro is easy to use and quite motivating; it helps you track your calorie consumption with a minimum of fuss. Highly recommended.
Quit Smoking Now HD ($7.99, also available for iPhone)
If you have tried to quit smoking before and failed, you already know how hard it can be. Many have found hypnosis to be helpful, and the Quit Smoking now app aims to bring hypnotherapy to your tablet computer. It includes tips for getting started, a 43-minute main session, a 21-minute booster session, and a 15-minute relaxation session, plus testimonials and fact cards.
There's even a video testimonial from Ewan McGregor, plus a quit-smoking calculator that figures how much money you have saved since you stopped smoking. The audio sessions are professionally done and, while I can't judge the effectiveness of the quit smoking portion of the app directly (I've never been a smoker), I can say that the relaxation session is indeed effective. If you're ready to quit smoking and don't like the idea of using the nicotine patch or other pharmaceutical aids to curb your cravings, try the Quit Smoking Now app.
Relax & Rest (99 cents) and Simply Being (99 cents)
These two apps each contain several guided meditations designed to help you relax, relieve stress, and sleep better. Options include the length and type of meditation as well as your choice of music or nature sounds, separate volume controls for the voice and sound effects.
The sessions are indeed relaxing, and the reasonable price makes it easy to try one or both. If you're interested in learning to meditate on your own, the same developer also offers a full four week meditation course for $5.99
Yoga Library for iPad ($4.99)
Like the Fitness Library, the Yoga Library for iPad is a database of yoga poses and routines that serves as a reference for anyone wanting to begin or deepen their practice of yoga. The homescreen features several buttons that allow you to jump quickly to the section of interest, be it seated poses, breath exercises, relaxation, or other categories.
Tapping on a pose takes you to a large photo of the pose with inset photos as appropriate to illustrate the steps. Tapping again takes you to a double page layout with full written instructions. You can also shake your iPad to get a random pose if you're looking for something new.
There is a wealth of information here, from a brief introduction to yoga to full routines based on several different goals such as stress management and strength development. The organization is great, the instructions are clear, and I highly recommend this app to anyone interested in learning about yoga, or who needs detailed instructions and photos to improve their technique.
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