The iPad can be a fantastic productivity and entertainment tool, but it can also help you get healthier by counting your calories and tracking your weight and your workouts. Some of these apps include extensive databases to help you get started, while others take a more do-it-yourself sort of approach that makes them highly customizable.
Whichever you choose and regardless of your fitness level and goals, you’ll find that the iPad can be just as good at keeping you fit and healthy as it is at helping you surf the web, watch movies, play games, and edit spreadsheets. While the iPad is technically not “magical” as Steve Jobs once claimed, the iOS tablet combined with fitness apps could literally improve your life if you’re determined to make some positive changes.
Calorie Counter ($2.99, universal)
This app is for those who want to track their entire food and water intake in detail. Calorie Counter is a universal app that requires you to set up a profile and a password, which can optionally be stored in your Dropbox account. That allows you to use this app on both your iPad and your iPhone for on-the-go food logging.
The food database is extensive and extremely detailed, but it isn’t as flexible as you might like. You can have a 12-ounce can of Sunkist orange soda, for example, but there is no way to easily change the serving size if you had a 20-ounce bottle instead. Food logging is relatively simple, but takes a few more steps than you might suspect, since you not only specify which meal the food was a part of, but also the exact time that it was eaten.
The app includes plenty of charts to check your progress, including discrete nutrients, your calorie intake, etc. There’s also a section where you can add your daily activities and your exact measurements, right down to each thigh, calf, and forearm if you like. There’s also a journal where you can track your blood pressure, your blood sugar, your mood, and even photos.
Highly recommended for the generally health obsessed as well as for those with medical conditions like diabetes that require extremely detailed food and activity monitoring.
Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal HD (Free)
This app is similar to the Calorie Counter profiled above, except that it’s more flexible and has a larger database of fast food and casual dining options — which is great for those who are trying to watch what they eat but aren’t dedicated enough to cook everything themselves. It’s also a more social weight loss experience, with a companion web site that allows you to add friends and even has a Facebook-style news stream that is updated automatically when you update your status, lose weight, exercise, or reach other milestones.
The ease-of-use is top notch, each food and/or exercise entry takes just a few taps. The more you use the program, the better its food suggestions and exercise completion prompts become, making it easier to stick with the program. While it isn’t as detailed in its logging as Calorie Counter, the version from MyFitness Pal is well executed, easy to use, and attractive.
CalorieKing Calorie Counter (Free, universal)
If you’re not interested in logging every single bite you take, but still want to watch your diet, this app is a great reference tool. Instead of entering each food you eat, it’s designed to be a guide to your best food choices. Is the whole gang going to Applebee’s for lunch, and you want to pick the healthiest salad on the menu? A couple of taps are all you need to see that the Grilled Chicken Caesar without dressing is the best choice, if you don’t want to strictly limit yourself to the Weight Watchers options.
This app reminds me of the old calorie counter/nutritional information books you used to see in the grocery store checkout lines. It won’t tell you what you ate for dinner two weeks ago, but it can help you make the right choices quickly and unobtrusively when you’re eating out and don’t want to completely blow off your diet. Searches are fast and everything is well organized. Recommended.
Daily Workouts ($3.99, Universal)
If all of this talk about calorie counting has you depressed and wishing that you had a pint of ice cream in the freezer, don’t despair–maybe you just need to increase your workouts in order to avoid increasing the size of your middle. Daily Workouts can help you by creating workouts focusing on your core, your legs, your upper body, or your entire body for a set time period.
Choose a workout length and then get to work! The app will create a randomized workout for you complete with video examples from a professional trainer and voice prompts to help you get through the workout. The target muscles for each exercise are also highlighted at the bottom of the screen, and there’s a handy pause button if you need to take a break during the workout. You’ll feel better about yourself and of course burn off some calories too — which is a lot more appealing than limiting yourself to plain salads for the next six months.
Fitness Buddy for iPad (99 cents, also available for iPhone)
This is another app for those who would rather exercise more than eat less. The focus here is on deep knowledge of your muscles and the best exercises to target each one. There’s an impressive amount of content here, including high resolution images, as well as excellent organization of the exercise library.
You can focus on your core, chest, shoulders, back, or arms, or you can go for cardio, stretches, or even create your own custom exercises. Each of the included exercises is well illustrated with clear, easy-to-follow photos that automatically play as mini slide shows. You can mark each exercise as a favorite to make it easier to find later, and add them to customized workouts. You can also log the weight and the number of repetitions so you can track your progress.
Fitness Buddy has a lot going for it–a huge library of exercises for a good variety of workouts, clear illustrations, and helpful videos to make sure that you’re maintaining proper form for each exercise. The full workouts are particularly useful for those who may be overwhelmed by the extensive exercise library; in this section you can choose from multiple beginner, intermediate, and advanced level workouts, plus resistance band, stability ball, weight loss, female oriented, and sports conditioning. Recommended.
FoodJournal for iPad ($2.99)
This app is a good option for those who would rather enter their information manually than try and use a database to count their calories. You won’t find a database of foods in the app, but you can enter your own foods with the name, description, calories, fat, carbs, and protein, and even photos if you like and save them as templates for future use.
Charts on the left side of the screen show your weight, body fat percentage, and chest/waist/hip measurements as well as calories consumed vs. calories burned, average daily fat/carb/protein totals and your daily water intake. You can save and email charts to yourself for archival purposes, which is a nice touch.
The interface is clean and well laid out. If you’re willing to put in the time required to customize the food database to fit your diet, FoodJournal can be extremely useful and is recommended.
Monitor Your Weight HD ($1.99)
The title is self-explanatory here; this app tracks your weight over time. That means no cheating on your diet, because you’ll be able to tell if you need to restrict your caloric intake again once you reach the maintenance stage. If you need extra motivation for your diet you can set the app to show how many pounds you have left to lose on the app icon as a badge on your iPad’s home screen.
You can either export your data via email or optionally set up a profile and synchronize your data with the developer’s server so you don’t have to worry about an unexpected crash corrupting your data. The synchronization option is a extra 99 cent in-app purchase.
You can also set up a PIN lock for the app if you let someone else in your family borrow your iPad and you don’t want them to know exactly what you weigh–which goes to show how much thought the developer has put into this app. It’s very simple, and you can of course argue that you can do basically the same thing by adding your current weight as a calendar appointment every day or every week, but the included charting option is useful and Monitor Your Weight HD can be an effective tool in keeping you on track toward your weight loss or weight maintenance goals.
Tap & Track ($4.99)
If you want fast, easy to use, and graphically appealing, check out Tap & Track. Tabs along the left side of the screen allow you to move quickly between today’s summary chart and table, Eat & Burn for entering in your food consumed and exercise performed, your weight, history overview, reports (daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly) and your settings.
The food database is extensive, though the strong emphasis here is on brand name foods and restaurant entrees. There are some odd omissions, like a simple can of Coke, though you will find multiple entries for Coke at a variety of restaurants. Overall though the database is quite strong, and of course you can add your own recipes and foods to customize the app for your diet.
Visual thinkers will really enjoy using this one and should definitely check it out. It’s more expensive than many of the other apps in this roundup, but it’s particularly well designed and very attractive.
Workout Journal for iPad ($2.99)
This app is from the same developer as FoodJournal, included above, though the obvious focus here is on exercise rather than food tracking. Like the other app, Workout Journal is rather bare bones to start, but becomes more powerful the longer that you use it and customize it to your needs.
You’ll find sections for the workout time and data, cardio exercises with level, distance, and duration, plus stretching and strength exercises with reps and weight per set. The left side of the screen is where you’ll find progress charts for body weight, body fat percentage, circumference measurements, and cardio trends. One missing element in this app is the ability to email charts to yourself for archival purposes, or to share with your doctor or personal trainer.
If you’re a personal trainer yourself, you can purchase the $9.99 Pro version of the app in order to use the handy workout tracker with multiple clients. Since you start with a blank slate and customize it, Workout Journal can be a particularly helpful tool for professionals, offering quick data entry and handy charts that illustrate the progress being made toward individual fitness goals for each client.