Another reason: games on your phone can help alleviate workout tedium and be used to guide you through calisthenics anywhere—in the airport, your office cubicle, or the car (careful!).
But the real genius of these fitness apps may lie in the all-motivating power of peer pressure. Simply put, you’re more likely to exercise if your friends are tweeting you words of encouragement or posting their latest fitness accomplishments on Facebook.
Ready to put some muscle into your social network? Here are our three favorite social fitness apps, scored for creativity, practicality, cost, and a good burn. Join us in a workout, or chime in with recommendations of your own. —Nicole Dyer
An immersive running game that turns your jog into a death-defying dash through a zombie apocalypse. Choose among 40 different terrifying adventures, as an audio track guides you through an epic bid to save humanity from the living dead.
Zombie Chase mode makes interval training resemble a scene from The Walking Dead, and you can share your runs online with other zombie runners, keep track of your times, view maps, and use the virtual goods you collected during your run to build a home base and earn more missions. Who knew role-playing could work up a sweat?
This app scores big on convenience and creativity. Bummer: Getting chased by imaginary flesher eaters isn’t cheap. The app is a hefty $7.99. www.zombiesrungame.
If you’d rather bypass zombie blood, Teemo offers wholesome adventures to get your blood pumping. Climb Everest, hike the Inca Trail, or dash through a desert. The best part is you won’t go it alone. Just like in a relay race, you finish one leg of the journey, complete an exercise, and then pass the virtual baton to a friend via Facebook.
I got a sneak peak at Teemo when I helped polish some of the storytelling, so I won’t comment on the writing, but I can objectively give props to the expert trainers who designed more than 100 plyometric-type routines for the game. Exercises can be done anywhere, without props, and each comes with a short video tutorial. You’ll bear crawl, frog hop, lunge, and hold side plank.
The hardest part is working up the nerve to do the moves in public. You may draw jeers from your coworkers as you do push-ups at your desk, but one flex of your bicep, and they’ll be on your Teemo. Bonus: The app is free. www.goteemo.com
Fitocracy turns exercise into a fierce competition. As with any video game, you work your way through successively more challenging levels, earning points and rewards for each exercise regimen completed. You can play against more than 230,000 registered “Fitocrats,” borrow one of their workouts, or lean on them for advice and inspiration.
If you like to keep personal data points, there’s a suite of widgets for tracking your fitness level and routines. Warning: Many of the workouts entail a trip to the good old-fashioned analog gym! And, as with all of these apps, Fitocracy (which is also free) assumes you’ll play fair and report your workouts honestly. Like Mom says, cheaters only cheat themselves. www.fitocracy.com