We sorted through popular fitness apps, timers and reminders to help you find the ones that motivate without intimidating (or berating).
By Corrie Pikul
The Online Community That Becomes Your Own Personal Cheering Section
Why: Does getting a "friendly" reminder from your fitness tracker that you're 0 for 0 this week make you want to log off for good? Check out Lift, which reminds you that as you strive for goals like working out every day, you're always achieving smaller ones -- so hey, here's a high-five just for checking in. In addition to tracking features and downloadable workouts, you can send props (but not scolds or goads) to Lift community members, and even hire a trained coach for personalized, real-time support.
How much: Free for the app, $15/week for the coach.
The Reminder That Baby Steps Count, Too
Why: This app tracks your daily movement—all of it, including your walk through the supermarket and your climb upstairs to the conference room. After 30 minutes of any kind of cardio activity, a fitness tracker kicks in so that you can be recognized and rewarded if you actually are training for that 10k you signed up for.
How much: Free.
A Yoga App for Your Body, Mind and Soul
Why: Yoga tutorials lack the spiritual element of a class—and they can be intimidating to newbies who don't know their asanas from their elbows. Cody, a support community for casual exercisers, sells customized plans in which yogis offer step-by-step instruction as well as self-help advice. Kino McGregor's Be Strong series is intended to help develop physical and emotional resilience. Keri Verna's Beach Yoga Slim Down package combines workouts with meditations that address the mental challenges of the weight-loss process.
How much: Free for the app; $10–$50 for the packages.
The Easiest Way to Feel Like You Exercised Today
What: 7-Min Workout
Why: This beautifully simple app is little more than a ticking timer with gifs depicting the exercises in a "scientific 7-minute workout" that's been shown to give you significant calorie-burning and muscle-building benefits. Completing this routine may cause you to feel so accomplished (not to mention efficient) that you'll consider doing it two or even three more times.
How much: Free.
The App That Helps You Multi-task for Social Good
What: Charity Miles
Why: Download this app, which sneakily doubles as a fitness tracker, and for every mile you run, bike or walk, a corporate sponsor matches your miles monetarily and donates to your chosen organization on your behalf. You feel good about exercising, and great about subtly (and easily!) changing the world.
How much: Free (but the developers ask that you share your results via social media to get more people involved).
An App That Makes You Feel Good About Wanting to Feel Better
Why: More than a fitness platform, Happify is all about the process of getting to where you want to be in life (happier, wiser, healthier)—and using science-based strategies to help you get there. To that end, they've created a system of games, activities and small rewards that motivate you to make changes and also help you to feel good about your new routines.
How much: Free for the basic plan; the Happify Plus premium plan ranges from $4–$13/month.