If you want to stay in shape and don't have a smartphone, buy one. An iPhone, Galaxy, Nexus ... fill in the blank ... is less expensive and almost as good as any personal trainer.
Ask any fitness professional and they will tell you that the key to a successful workout program is consistency. Results come with time. You won't lose a spare tire that took decades to acquire after a few sessions in the gym.
It can take months, sometimes even years, to get back to your college playing weight. Smartphone fitness apps can help you lose weight by keeping track of calories in (food) and calories out (exercise).
They also can help weekend warriors and elite athletes improve performance. Hoping to break the 21-minute mark on your next 5K? Download an app and start logging your weekly runs.
Many of the best apps are free. The ones that do charge a fee cost less than a 580-calorie White Chocolate Mocha at your favorite coffee shop.
There are literally hundreds of fitness apps on the market. Some work better than others. But in the end it's still a matter of personal preference. Apps are like exercise routines: If you are a night person, there's no way that 6 a.m. waterfront boot camp will work in the long run.
To get started, find an app that looks like it suits your needs and try it for a few weeks. If it turns out that you don't like it, just hit delete and start over. Or better yet, download two or three similar apps and bounce back and forth. The most you'll have lost is a couple of bucks.
As always, before you embark on a new exercise program, it's a good idea to check with your doctor.
Here are some apps worth exploring:
Map My Run (Walk and Ride)
The Map My Fitness series of apps for runners, walkers and cyclists taps into your phone's GPS system to show your actual route. It records time, distance covered and calories burned. It also will keep track of multiple workouts so you can see if you are getting faster, slower or simply had a bad day. There are plenty of useful extras that you can experiment with if you have the time, but if you are looking for a simple, easy way to track your workouts, these apps are for you. Free
There is no shortage of running apps, but bikers often have a hard time finding a GPS-based system that works for them. Strava is the ideal app for the serious cyclist. It will maintain a record of your rides and put you in touch with a community of like-minded enthusiasts. Free
Losing weight is a numbers game. If you want to shed pounds, keep track of what you eat and how much you move. This app operates like a pedometer. It keeps track of your steps, like a Fitbit, but it does so on your smartphone. You can use it anywhere, and you might even forget you have it on. $1.99
One of the most popular running apps, with 45 million users, Runkeeper is the original runners' app. It tracks other distance activities as well. You can keep track of vital statistics — time, pace, distance — and take pictures along the way. The app will record your workout history and how much you have improved. Runkeeper also synchs with other apps on the market. Free
Runtastic Six Pack Abs
Sorry, but this app alone won't give you a washboard stomach. (Diet and genetics factor into that.) What Runtastic's Six Pack Abs workout will do is help you strengthen your core, which will make you feel better, regardless of your recreational activity of choice. And the slow-motion videos will make sure you have perfect form. Free
The Couch-to-5K program is a great introductory app for people who have been sedentary. As the name implies, this app will get you off the couch and on the street. It's easy to use and doesn't require a big investment of time — just 20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise three days a week. If you follow this program you can be ready to run your first 3.1-mile race in two to three months. Free
Make your walking, biking and running count with charity miles. You can help raise money for your favorite charity (with the help of corporate sponsorships) every time you hit the pavement. This app will make a difference in more ways than one. Free
Leave it to the king of running shoes to come out with one of the best running apps on the market. This app will work for you regardless of where you put in your miles — sidewalk, treadmill, cross country trail. Standard features include distance, time and pace. There are lots of extras, too, if you take the time to figure them out. Free
If you need a little extra motivation to push it, check out Pumatrac. You get the standard requirements of all running apps — distance, time and pace — plus some cool added features, such as weather and time of day, in case you need proof that a cool-morning run will be faster than one on a hot, muggy afternoon. You also can go online and compare your workouts with those of other Pumatrac runners. Free
Do anything long enough and you are bound to get bored. But if you need a little something to keep you interested, or distracted, while you train for that 5K, then download Zombies, Run! You'll need some earbuds and a good sense of humor. But, hey ... whatever it takes to keep the feet moving. $1.99
Contact Terry Tomalin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TomalinTimes.