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Part 3 - The ABCs of building a quality workout app


It seems that fitness apps have taken the world by storm as more and more people have started to pay attention to their physical health and appearance. In fact, it is highly likely that you yourself have some kind of a fitness app installed on your smartphone or tablet.

What’s more, with the current situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the popularity of these apps has increased even more. Since a lot of gyms were forced to temporarily close their gates to the public, an increased number of people started relying on fitness apps as an indispensable tool to keep up with their exercise routine and maintain their health and their fitness level.


A brief survey of the health and fitness app market…

If we take a closer look at some statistical findings provided by Statista, the data shows that there was a total of 62.7 million people in the US in 2018 who used a health or a fitness app on their smartphone at least once per month. The forecast from the same research reveals that the number of these people will increase to a staggering 86.3 million in 2022! In addition, the analysis of mobile app downloads paints a similar picture. It shows that health and fitness apps were downloaded 419 million times in total during the final quarter of 2019, following by a steep increase to 593 million downloads in the first quarter of 2020. Last but not least, another research from Statista’s Digital Market Outlook predicts that the annual global revenue in the health and fitness eServices market will increase to a total of 5,273.5 million US Dollars in 2024.

Driven by this substantial increase in demand, it shouldn't be all too surprising that a lot of companies have started to develop their own health and fitness apps. During the last few years, both multinational companies, the likes of Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and Fitbit, as well as small startups have started making their way into the health and fitness app territory and claimed their share of the market revenue. The same holds true for a lot of health and fitness services around the globe, including gyms, yoga practice studios, various health clubs, etc.

The current top charts provided by SensorTower Mobile App Store Marketing Intelligence display the most popular apps in the health and fitness app category. A quick glance at the chart reveals that Calm is the currently number one free app in Google's Play Store, followed by MyFitnessPal, Planet Fitness Workouts, Yoga-Go, FitOn and Fitbit, in a descending order. If you take a look at Apple Store's app rankings, you'll notice that there is not much difference between the two major app stores. These are some of the biggest contenders in the market that are available today when it comes to this app category.


Workout & exercise apps - a personal training assistant right in your pocket!

According to the set of features that they offer to its end users, all health and fitness apps can be divided into three general categories. These are: activity tracking apps, diet & nutrition apps, and workout & exercise apps, which are the main focus of the current article.

Essentially, the main purpose of this type of mobile apps is to closely replicate the experience of a working out in a gym environment or an exercise studio, accompanied by a personal trainer. These apps can be used irregardless of whether you want to build up your muscle mass, or just need to shed a few kilos that you somehow managed to gain over the holiday season. Most workout apps contain a detailed list of exercises that you can choose from. In addition, they allow you to chose which part of the body or muscle group you prefer to work on. Some of the apps that are available on the market today even let you create your own customized workouts for your workout sessions.

A major benefit of workout and exercise apps is that they allow you to monitor and track your performance over time. This is extremely helpful because it provides you with concrete evidence that you are moving in the right direction and achieving the right results. Another huge and obvious advantage of these apps lies in their convenience and their ease of use. To put it in a few words, fitness and exercise apps give you your personal training instructor right in your pocket. This of course means that you can exercise wherever and whenever you wish, since your virtual instructor is available and at your disposal 24/7. Finally, another major advantage of workout and exercise apps lies in the fact that they are very cost-efficient and that they allow you to save a lot of money by not having to hire an actual personal training assistant to help you out with your workouts.


Some essential features of well-designed workout apps

The following sections outline some of the must-have features that most successful workout and exercise apps have in common. Nevertheless, you should bear in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list of features, because this market segment is extremely diverse there are workout apps out there that are designed to help you with nearly every exercise activity you can imagine!


The registration screen

This is an extremely important section for most workout and exercise apps on the market. Of course, you may choose not to implement it in your app if you plan to release a simple movement tracking app. However, if you plan to offer a personalized experience your users, this is a mandatory step. The registration process allows you to create an individual profile for each user, where all the data associated with that user can be safely stored and processed in accordance with the specifications of your app.


User profile

Ok, so now that you decided to implement the registration process for your users and let them have customized data associated with their profiles, why not let them manage their personal information by implementing a user profile section. On this screen, your users can manage their physical data, such as their age, weight, height and other metrics that help create the entire workout experience a lot more personalized, user-friendly and useful.

Another very practical feature of the user profile section is that it allows your users to admire the achievements they've made since they started using your app. Even though there are some serious doubts nowadays when it comes to relying on gamification in order to keep your users motivated and maintain their interest, should you choose to implement an achievement system in your app, this is the perfect place to let your users take pride and joy in the achievements they managed to obtain during the course of their exercise.


Progress logging

This is the core feature and an obligatory functionality of any workout and exercise app. Granted, the exact implementation of this section can vary to a certain degree, but the main concept always remains the same. Think of it this way - everyone who starts working out in a gym has some kind of a specific goal in mind, whether it is to lose body weight, have stronger muscles or increase their stamina. However, the progress you make through regular exercise is not immediately visible and noticeable. Rather, it comes in a series of subtle and gradual changes that your body has to go through. This is an area where these apps provide the most benefit to the user. If you're interested to find out more about this topic, feel free to take a few moments and read our previous article on how you can quantify and track your exercise routine.

But, to return to the subject of progress logging, when adding this section, you're essentially implementing some sort of a database where all your exercise data needs to be stored. This database is used to log and present a wide array of information, including the specific type of exercise, its duration, the number of repetitions, the part of your body and the muscle group involved in an exercise - the list of possible aspects that you can log and keep track of is nearly inexhaustible. Generally speaking, the more relevant data you decide to incorporate into your workout app, the more useful it will be for your users and the better it will help them understand their progress. Furthermore, in addition to keeping track of the results, you can also use this data to adjust the intensity of your existing workouts to match the fitness level of the user.


Workout section

This is another core feature of any workout app, because it is supposed to serve as a virtual teacher your users on how to perform the exercises you provided in your app. If not implemented correctly and the exercises are not properly explained, the users of your app can potentially injure themselves and might even suffer from long-term consequences from using your app. This is why it is extremely important to fully explain all the exercises you choose to include in your app.

In addition, it is also worth keeping in mind that a huge demotivating factor for new users who start exercising on their own is a steep learning curve and that they can often end up spending hours upon hours of their precious time researching proper exercise techniques for each of the exercises. A good way to circumvent this is to make all the exercises in your app in an easily accessible and easily digestible format.

In terms of its form, most workout and exercise apps choose to implement this feature in the form of a list containing all the exercises, where you typically have an illustration for each of the exercises and some sort of a description that should give your users a pretty clear idea about how to perform each exercise. However, you can also choose to implement all sorts of rich media in the exercises section of your app, such as audio or video files. These files can be stored either locally or downloaded on-demand from a remote server location. If you want to keep your app within a reasonable size limit, you might also choose a combination of these two approaches. This way, you could have a certain number of audio and/or video files available immediately upon the installation of your app, with an option to download additional videos on-demand.


Notifications and reminders

Even though it may seem like a trivial matter, implementing notifications is extremely important when dealing with this app category. Notifications can serve as a very useful tool to remind your users about regular exercise, their training sessions, their current state of progress, your offers and discounts as well as sending them various motivational quotes and other information.

However, it is crucial to find the right balance when it comes to this aspect of your exercise app. Ideally, you want to keep your users motivated enough to keep using your app and follow their exercise routine. Abusing the notification system to send notifications that are irrelevant or sending too many notifications to your users can quickly make them abandon your app and look for an alternative that avoids this behavior.


Integration with the third-party app ecosystem

No matter how good your app may be, it is unreasonable to expect that it can cover every possible aspect of training and exercise. That is why you need to plan the scope of your app carefully and see which areas in particular you want your app to focus on. Like we already noted before, there are apps out there that cover almost any type and aspect of exercise that you can humanly imagine. So, why not use that to your advantage!

You can choose to add syncing capabilities with other apps that specialize in certain aspects that you decided to leave out of your app and this way further extend its capabilities. For example, you can integrate data from a calorie-counting app in order to see how much calories you burned after each of your workout sessions. In addition, you can also choose to add integration from various wearable devices that can provide your app with more precise readings as well as other metrics that your mobile phone cannot acquire by itself. Last but not least, let's not forget that you can also integrate the data from your app into some of the biggest fitness tracking platforms, such as Apple's Health app or Google Fit.


In conclusion...

In this article, we wanted to give you a short overview of the health and fitness app market and outline some of the most prominent features of workout and exercise apps that are currently on the market. We hope that you found this article helpful and informative, especially if your are just starting to uncover the benefits of this vibrant market segment.

However, this is not all that we have in store for you. Please stay tuned for our next article because we cannot wait to tell you what we've been working on for the past couple of months!

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Part 3 - The ABCs of building a quality workout app

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