Sometimes there’s not enough time, or motivation, in the day to get to the gym. And sometimes, we simply don’t have the funds for a membership (or you’d rather spend what little money you have on food or alcohol…no judgment). But, thanks to the invention of the smartphone, you don’t have to actually step foot in a gym to get your workout in. There are a lot of good fitness apps that require a paid subscription, but I’m going to go ahead and jump to the conclusion that if you don’t want to spend $10 a month to go to Planet Fitness or wherever, you probably also don’t want to spend money for an app, either. That’s why I picked out my top five favorite free fitness apps to download and get sweating to. (I don’t feel bad anymore about seeing 5 + hours at the end of the day on my screen time…I’m working out!) Grab your weights and your cutest pair of leggings, and let’s get started.
1. Workout For Women
This app offers categories of workouts for every muscle in your body, including abs, butt, back, shoulders, arms, and more. The exercises are mostly for your at-home gym sesh, but they do offer a few workout routines for during the day, like “deskercise”, “chair exercises”, and “office stretch”… but please, be low-key if you’re doing them at work. What I love about this app is that they offer plenty of workouts that you can do in only seven minutes. These include 7M Butt, 7M Sweat, and 7M Beginner. I love these guides because I know I can get through seven minutes of work without the thought of “when is this overrrrr??” repeating in my head the entire workout. You can see your progress on a calendar based on your workout history and calories burned. Def recommend.
2. Fitness Challenge
When setting up the app, it will ask you a few questions to help personalize your workouts. It asks for what you think your level is (beginner, intermediate, or pro) and how many sessions a week you want to work out (2, 3, or 4). It then asks you for your goal, whether that be to lose weight, stay fit, or gain muscle. This way, the experience will be tailored to you and your body. Fitness Challenge gives you an outline of your workout before starting, so you know what you’re getting into before you begin. It tells you how much time the workout will last, what exactly you’ll be doing, and how many times you’re doing it. It comes with five categories to choose from: full body, sexy legs and butt, abs and flat tummy, bikini body, and skinny toned arms. Count me in.
3. Daily Yoga
If you’re a yogi, this is the app for you, but in addition to yoga, Daily Yoga also incorporates other mainstream workouts. Once signed in, you choose your goal. This app’s options are: start as beginner, stay healthy, lose weight, skill improvement, muscle tone, and stress relief. I LOVE how they named these goals. But Daily Yoga doesn’t only provide workouts—it goes one step further, offering audio and music to guide you through your practices. They have guided meditations, mantras, mindfulness training, and more—all of which you can download straight to your phone. I recommend listening to the music before bed at night for a spa-like relaxation that’ll put you into a deep sleep.
You can sign up for FitOn through FACEBOOK, which is great, because then you don’t have to waste time plugging in personal info and can get moving instead. It does ask a few questions to personalize your experience, though, which I do appreciate. It first asks you about your goal. Are you using the app to lose weight? Reduce stress? For post-natal fitness? I like this app because it doesn’t just give you three basic goal choices; it has a bunch more to offer. After that, it asks for your favorite types of workouts ranging from yoga, to HIIT, and dance. Then, you’re in! If you aren’t ready to work out right away, you can set reminders to do so later on, which I use way too frequently. It gives you a ton of choices, like which trainer you want to take, the target area you want to work on, and trending activities to start. FitOn even gives you a custom-made schedule. You can see all your upcoming workouts and the intensity of each. You can even invite your friends to share your progress, if you’re competitive like that. There is also a section on advice from trainers, ranging from articles to videos that are informational and worth a watch.
5. BetterMe: Walking
If you aren’t into high-intensity workouts or sweating too much, this app is perfect for you. It’s all about walking, and only walking. Walking is the perfect way to burn off calories and reduce stress. I think walking is one of the most important workouts—especially walking outside. Obvs if it’s crazy weather, just hop on the treadmill, NBD. The app goes by days, so they have a list of workouts designed for you each day to complete. You can walk for meditation, renewal, midlife women, stress, or for burning off the cheese pizza you had for dinner last night, which I like to do. (Okay, so that last option I made up.) All totally great. It also tracks your steps and calories burned, if you’re over your iPhone health app after the latest update, which most of us are.
There are so many other free fitness apps you can check out, but these ones offer a good range of services that everyone can enjoy and are easy to use. These are the perfect start to get motivated and move throughout your week. You can use them in your living room, at your office, outside walking your pup, or even in class (def be cautious though…). Hope these apps help you and guide you to achieve your goals.
Images: Dane Wetton / Unsplash; Workout For Women; Fitness Challenge; Daily Yoga; FitOn; BetterMe: Walking
Nicole Moore co-founded The Center Method (TCM), a one-stop studio for mind body self-care. As a certified Clinical Psychologist and licensed yoga instructor trained in Vinyasa, Sculpt, and Yoga Bar, Moore has created an all-encompassing wellness center and community to bring personal development and health under one roof. Through the combination of psychotherapy, bodywork, body movement/awareness, mindfulness, yoga and meditation, Moore has made it her mission to help bring people of all ages find human resiliency from within.
As someone who has suffered from anxiety and anxiety attacks, I know how scary and uncomfortable the stress response can feel in the body. We feel anxiety when the “fight or flight response” (a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a real or imagined threat to survival) is activated. The “attack” affects the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the involuntary responses including heart palpitations, tightness in the chest, lightheadedness, and feelings of being flushed or warmer than usual. As you perceive a threat, the amygdala (often referred to as the “lizard brain” or “reptilian brain”) tells your autonomic nervous system to prepare to run or fight for your life. Your heart rate and breathing quicken, and your “spidey senses” (the ability to sense imminent danger) activate. The parasympathetic nervous system is what slows the fight or flight response and activates your body’s “relaxation response”, which is essentially the exact opposite reaction to the “fight or flight” response. It is your conscious ability to encourage your body to release signals to the brain that slow your muscles and organs down and increase blood flow to the brain, which produces a calm, relaxed feeling in the mind and body. There are many techniques you can learn to switch on the parasympathetic nervous system to rapidly reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. Here are my go-to approaches to address the symptoms of an anxiety attack.
The challenge many of us face in the midst of an anxiety attack is the struggle to reestablish control of our body and mind. Physical activities that lead to a greater sense of self-mastery (e.g. martial arts, boxing) may affect your belief in your ability to reach goals and self-efficacy. This leads to lower levels of anxiety through the trust and knowledge of your physical ability to handle potential threats, real or imagined. Boxing requires focus to coordinate the mind and body, which brings you into the present moment and distracts the mind from ruminating thoughts. Boxing builds self-confidence and self-esteem through a sense of achievement. Added benefits of going to a boxing gym can include finding a community and a sense of belonging.
Yoga is a 5,000-year-old moving meditation that elicits the relaxation response through the synchronization of breath and movement. Breathing is the only function of the autonomic nervous system that is both voluntary and involuntary; controlled breathing can regulate the stress response. Yoga is a systematic practice of movements developed to evoke harmony in the mind and body. A few yoga poses that calm the nervous system are:
- Seated forward fold (Paschimottanasana), which reduces anxiety and quiets the mind by drawing your energy down.
- Expanded-Leg Pose (Prasarita Padottanasana), which brings fresh blood to the brain, allows the heart to rest, and calms the mind.
- Forward-fold (Uttanasana), which stimulates blood flow to the brain and calms the nervous system.
- Cross-legged pose (Sukhasana), which provides a stable position for meditation, and calms and settles the mind.
Dance…like no one is watching. If you’re in the midst of an anxiety attack, or feel the tingles of anxiety seeping through, turn on some upbeat music and move your body! Not only does this release body tension, but it also helps shift your focus from worrisome thoughts to being in the present moment. Dance can quickly influence emotions, mood, and attitude because of the intrinsic relationship between the body and mind—what happens to the body can affect the mind and vice versa.
Walking (and other exercise) triggers the release of endorphins, which creates a positive feeling in the body. To help ease the psychological pain and discomfort associated with anxiety, take a break, and put physical and mental distance between you and the environment which may be adding to the stress. Anxiety is fear of the future; walking helps get you outside of your thoughts to bring your focus back to the here and now. Studies show that walking in nature can be beneficial for stress and anxiety relief, but even if you live in an urban environment, a 15-minute walk may be just the thing you need to get your mind off the worry. Focus on the present moment by observing the environment around you: enjoy the fresh air, notice the sound of your feet as you walk along, window shop, listen to the birds, feel the breeze on your face, etc.
Bonus: Four Square Breathing
It’s not an exercise, but nonetheless it’s an important technique that can work. Four Square Breathing can be used when you need to quickly cool down the mind and body. Intentional deep breathing calms and regulates the autonomic nervous system with immediate results. It also focuses your energy on the task at hand to minimize rumination and brings your awareness into the present moment. Here’s how:
To begin, exhale all the air in your lungs.
- Inhale deeply through the nose for the count of one, two, three, four.
- Hold the breath for one, two, three, four.
- Exhale through the mouth for one, two, three, four.
- Pause at the bottom for one, two, three, four.
Repeat the cycle four times.
I’ve been lucky to experience the grounding, calming and refocusing effects of practicing each of the aforementioned exercises. While these activities have greatly helped me to reduce and control anxiety, and I recommend trying each of them due to their proven benefits, it is most important to find the form of physical exercise or mental practice that best aids you personally in overcoming general anxiety as well as anxiety attacks. Though it can be an arduous path to finding what form of relief best suits your needs, it is worth investing the time and energy to safeguard your emotional health.
Images: Form / Unsplash; Giphy (5)