Best Fitness Apps and Home Workouts

Ruben Castaneda

Michelle Mazzie typically stays active outdoors by biking and skiing in Park City, Utah, where she lives with her husband, their teenage son, their dog and their cat.

But after the first known case of community-spread coronavirus case was diagnosed in Park City in recent weeks, the town's two ski resorts shut down. Park City's gyms also closed, thanks to the coronavirus. Because of a shoulder injury that will require surgery, Mazzie's doctor told her she can't bike outdoors; a spill could exacerbate her torn labrum.

Mazzie has been able to remain active because her husband encouraged her to get a Peloton bike in early February. She works from home and uses it once or twice a day, joining classes led by Peloton instructors who appear on the 22-inch touchscreen that came with the bike, or going on rides featuring scenes from the Grand Tetons or Switzerland.

"This is helping me not go crazy," says Mazzie, 48. "The timing (for getting the bike) was perfect."

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As government officials and employers order tens of millions of people to stay home, while gyms, yoga studios and universities suspend their operations in an effort to blunt the spread of the coronavirus, countless numbers of individuals are looking for ways to maintain an exercise routine.

"People don't want to lose the progress they've made in their exercise regimen," says Dani Singer, CEO and founder of Fit2Go Personal Training, based in Baltimore. "Fitness isn't something you can just pause and hop back on. People need an activity and constructive ways to use their time."

In response to the coronavirus crisis, many personal trainers are boosting their use of technology to work with clients from a safe distance.

For example, Jonathan Jordan, a personal trainer based in San Francisco, has in recent weeks ramped up his use of FaceTime to meet with clients and guide them through their workouts. FaceTime is a video chat feature available on iPhones, iPads and other Apple products (Android devices use similar video chat features) that allows users to see and talk to each other in real time.

"I know what to watch for and what training guidance my clients need," Jordan says. "They need the accountability. I will talk to them and watch them and coach them through the workout."

The millions of people who find themselves confined to home for an indeterminate amount of time have a plethora of options when it comes to developing a home workout routine, says Toril Hinchman, director of fitness and wellness for Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

Deciding which fitness option is best for you comes down to a straightforward question. "The bottom line is, what do you enjoy doing?" Hinchman says. "Everyone had an exercise routine that's been upset. What works for one person may not work for someone else."

Options for working out at home include:

-- Fitness apps.

-- High-end exercise equipment.

-- Online workouts and videos.

-- Virtual reality.

The good news is that with such a wide plethora of choices, chances are you'll be able to find a fitness approach that works for you.

1. Fitness apps. There are about 250,000 fitness apps available, Hinchman says. An online search turns up dozens of lists of popular free and paid fitness apps. Many of the paid fitness apps are available for subscriptions ranging from about $2 to $15 a month.

A wide array of workouts are available on fitness apps, including:

-- Boxing.

-- Cardio.

-- Kickboxing.

-- Strength training.

-- Stretching.

-- Yoga.

-- Elliptical.

-- Cycling.

-- Fitness bootcamps.

Some fitness apps focus on a particular type of workout, while others provide a raft of options. For example, a Peloton app offers workouts for running, strength training, cycling, yoga and outdoor exercises.

The app NEOU provides workouts from more than 100 different fitness brands and personal trainers, says Nate Forster, founder and CEO of the company that markets the product. NEOU is "Netflix for wellness and working out," Forster says.

The workouts range in length from about five minutes up to an hour, he says. The app costs $49.99 a year and can be used on any smartphone, tablet, computer or TV, he says.

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2. High-end exercise equipment. While there aren't a quarter-million different types of high-end pieces of exercise gear on the market, there are still plenty of choices. Peloton is just one of a raft of companies that market stationary bikes, elliptical machines and other equipment that's accompanied by a touchscreen that connects you to a trainer in real time or shows an array of scenes from cities, mountains and the countryside to take in during your workout.

The interactive features of this equipment can help you feel connected to other people even when you're working out alone, Mazzie says. When working out in an online bike class where you can see the trainer on your touchscreen, you can also see who else is in the class with you. The touchscreen allows you to hit the profiles of the other individuals in the class to give them a virtual high-five. Peloton instructors often talk about their community and welcome first-time riders. "I love the high-five feature," Mazzie says. "I didn't think I was going to, but I do. At the end of the day when I haven't had a lot of face-to-face interaction and I'm doing my class, it's nice to see the high-five pop up."

There's a broad range of prices for high-end exercise equipment and subscriptions. Some pieces of equipment -- like stationary bikes equipped with a touchscreen -- are available for between about $1,400 to about $3,000. Many monthly subscriptions range between about $30 and $56 a month.

3. Online workouts and videos. Many gyms and personal trainers provide interactive workouts on a one-on-one basis or with groups.

For example, Hinchman trains students, faculty and staff at her university using Zoom, an interactive tool similar to FaceTime that allows people in different physical locations to communicate face-to-face in real time.

Many gyms and personal trainers provide workout videos online. Singer and Jordan, the personal trainers, have workout videos on their websites. There's also a plethora of workouts available online, including some old-school regimens that were very popular in their time. For example, in 1982, actress-activist Jane Fonda released the first of a series of enormously popular workout videos. You can watch "Jane Fonda's Original Workout" online for $8.99.

4. Virtual reality. Since he purchased his VZFit system in mid-February from VirZOOM, a virtual reality company, Shon Tamblyn has bicycled about 550 miles, virtually pedaling through the Japanese countryside. That's a long way from where he lives in Sacramento, California. The technology provides him 360-degree photos from real locations that are stitched together, providing a sense of being there, he says.

"It felt like I was actually riding through Japan, though I hadn't left my house," Tamblyn, 48, says. "As you're pedaling, it feels like you're moving down the street. It give you a sense of movement." The app allows Tamblyn to choose locations from throughout the world, from the mountains of South America to the streets of Manhattan to the Alaskan wilderness.

Tamblyn doesn't use a sophisticated stationary bike. He simply attached a sensor to a stationary bike he'd purchased years ago. The sensor kit, which can be attached to any stationary bike, costs $99.95, and Tamblyn pays a $9.95 monthly subscription. He uses Oculus goggles he purchased separately. Retail prices for Oculus goggles typically range betwen $300 and $500 each, depending on the model.

An online search turns up an array of virtual reality outfits that provide boxing, dancing and gym workouts.

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The VZfit system allows users to not only choose street views from all over the world, whatever area's been mapped by Google, but to "meet" with other people who use the system in virtual reality, says Eric Janszen, co-founder and CEO of VirZoom. He's based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "Even before this crisis, our customers were telling us how great it is to be able to explore the world," Janszen says. "You can feel like you're getting away from the confines of your home, ride in beautiful places, alone or with friends, while getting some exercise."