We spend too much time sitting around. It’s true. Luckily the same smartphones that often keep us sitting down can also encourage us to get up and walk more by tracking our steps.
Apple’s iPhone 5S is the smartphone pedometer king because it has a special M7 chip that can continuously track movement without draining the battery. There are many apps that hook up to this chip.
$3 on iOS, free on Android
The Moves app, $3 on iOS, is my favorite because of its minimal design.
The display of Moves is simple yet colorful, with a colored circle that counts your steps daily. The more steps you take, the bigger the circle, so it’s easy to see at a glance how well you’re doing.
Beneath this counter is a simple graphic of where you took steps, and whether they were made during walks or runs. Tapping the place icon in the infographic will give you a more detailed map.
Swiping across the display takes you to data from previous days. The app can also show how many calories you’ve burned and how far you’ve walked in total — a figure that often surprises me, because I can churn out a mile or so even inside my own home.
And that’s it! It’s deliciously simple, and I rely on Moves’ notifications to remind me to make an extra effort on a particular day.
Best of all, thanks to the M7 chip, I don’t even have to have the app running for it to collect data — it runs completely in the background.
There are one or two hiccups, though: When I was skiing, the app thought I was cycling.
It also thinks you were running when you were walking, throwing off the calorie count. But you can always manually correct the activity type.
In its newest version, the app has more than 60 extra activity types, but most are not automatically recognized and must be chosen by hand.
Moves also works on iPhones other than the 5S and on many Android units. (It is free on Android.)
The app may consume more battery when used on phones other than the 5S.
Map My Walk
Free on iOS and Android
A similar free app for iOS and Android that measures walks in more detail is Map My Walk.
The app is elegantly designed, making it simple to use even though it contains many options and presents a lot of data.
For example, the app tracks your location by GPS, it wirelessly syncs with popular heart rate monitors and will speak out loud to prompt you as you walk on your progress.
I don’t use it because I prefer a simpler count of my walking habits, and I’m not overly fond of Map My Walk’s interface.
But you may like its extra data because it may help you keep on top of your walking regimen.
Free on iOS and Android
The popular fitness app
brand Runtastic also offers the free Runtastic Pedometer app on Android and iOS.
It’s similar in terms of function and interface to Map My Walk, without the location-tracking system. The interface is plain, and this sort of no-nonsense look may appeal.
I love the fact that you can tag each day’s data with a little icon to say how you felt or what the weather was like, but the spartan look of the app doesn’t appeal to me.
I’ve used apps like these to make sure I walk more than 10,000 steps a day.
This number of steps is generally considered to help you keep fit and burn off a few extra calories, and I’ve definitely noticed that it has helped how I look and feel.