Nerdy fitness tools

nullHow much do you move each day? What’s your average heart rate? How far did you jog this morning? These simple metrics can tell you a lot about your health and fitness levels, and they’re easier than ever to track with nothing more than your smartphone.

Disclaimer: Consult with your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or fitness routines. The apps presented below do not replace proper medical examinations or the advice of a medical professional.

Though no app can (currently or effectively) replace a doctor, there are still plenty of ways your smartphone can help you track your health and fitness goals. This means your phone can measure and track things like your resting heart rate, footsteps, and sleep quality to give you a good idea of how you’re doing. This article outlines four of these apps.


free; iOS & Android

Moves automatically records the walking, cycling, and running you do. It tracks distance, duration, steps, and calories burned, along with a map and timeline of where you’ve been. It’s always on. Just keep your phone in your pocket or bag.

+ Easy to use.
+ Doubles as an informal journal with its location timeline.
+ Can use Foursquare data to identify places you’ve visited.

– Any app using GPS regularly will wear on your phone’s battery.
– Moves occasionally stops tracking. This is an issue they’re aware of and working to fix, but it comes up from time to time.


$2; iOS only

Cardiio is a heart rate monitor created by researchers in MIT’s Media Lab. Using it is as simple as looking at the front camera of your iPhone or iPad for a few seconds. Measurements are categorized, tracked, and charted to provide insight into your progress.

+ Easy to use.
+ Two measurement options (front camera and face, or rear camera and fingertip).
+ App has a quirky sense of humor.
+ Push notifications can remind you to measure your heart rate.

– Currently iOS only.
– Recommend Heart Rate Pro by Runtastic for Android users.

Lose It!

free; iOS & Android

Lose It! is a simple calorie-tracking app that helps you log calories and activities to stay within your calorie budget. One especially cool feature is the ability to use your phone’s camera to scan the barcode off food packaging. Integrates well with other major apps and devices.

+ Huge catalog of foods, including restaurants.
+ Can create “recipes” and share them with other users.

– Can take about a week to really get up and running with your regular foods and recipes.
– Takes a lot of effort to keep up with entering everything.

Sleep Cycle

$2; iOS only

Sleep Cycle uses the iPhone accelerometer to track your sleep patterns throughout the night. Using this information, it identifies when you’re in your lightest sleep phase closest to the time you’ve set for your alarm, and wakes you up then.

+ Tracks your sleep over time so you can see how you’re doing.
+ Can set a vibrate only alarm to gently wake you up (but not disturb your partner).

– Your phone must be plugged into the charger while Sleep Cycle is in use (your phone technically doesn’t go to sleep while you use it).
-Won’t measure your sleep properly if you place it in the wrong spot.

The apps in this article were presented as part of the Nerdy Fitness Tools lunch and learn session from October 2013. The full handout contains information about these apps, as well as wearable fitness bands: Nerdy Fitness Handout

Michael Vaughn

My name is Michael. During the day I help Elon faculty, staff, and students find new ways to use technology to enhance their teaching and learning. I've also collaborated with SMEs, faculty and instructional designers to design and develop fully online courses, presented for high school and college audiences on social media and educational technology, and have a background in faculty training for elearning technologies.

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