Fitness apps and trackers have been around for a while, glaring at us from our phones, desktops and even on our wrists.
Some people don’t bother with them because they think they're a waste of time, but if you integrate them into your day-to-day, could you reap any worthwhile benefits?
I tried out a small handful of fitness apps for a month to find out what I could actually get.
How much sport do I do?
I feel I should preface this article by saying that I'm quite sporty. I cycle 10 miles to and from work, plus some extra routes, I also run and swim and dabble in whatever random sport grabs me at any given time.
Google Fit says I do around 10-15 hours of physical activity a week, including walking. Whether you do more or less, this should hopefully give you some idea of how much you can earn.
Bounts allows you to earn points for activities like walking, running or going to the gym.
You can earn 20 points per activity and earn up to 180 points per day. These points can then be redeemed for challenges which come with bigger rewards or purchasing something from the shop with a combination of points and cash.
Some challenges have guaranteed rewards, like a fiver, but with others, there's much less chance of winning. I entered an Active Autumn Challenge to win a hotel stay for two.
The challenge was to earn 600 Bounts before 30 September doing a host of activities. I didn't reach the standard but I came pretty close at a respectable 485 points.
You can sync Bounts with other trackers like Google Fit, Garmin and Runkeeper. The beauty of this compared to other apps is that you can backlog activity so that you don’t need to have your phone on you when you’re doing certain activities where it just wouldn’t work – swimming, for example.
Part of the reason I like sport is that it's one of the few times I can escape from screens so this was a major plus point for me.
Does my activity translate into rewards? The shop is, in a word, ‘sparse’. There are only two items and throughout the month one of them was always out of stock. You’d have to be doing a lot over a long period of time to get anywhere near that hoodie, and you’d still need to fork out £35 on top of your earnings.
I'll just come right out and say that BetterPoints was my favourite of the fitness apps. However, it works by using a GPS tracker so it can only record walking, running and cycling.
The app is easy to use – just sign in and get moving. You'll need to start the tracker before you do each activity and remember to switch it off at the end. There's no tricking this app. If you've been inactive for a while, the GPS will detect it and switch off the tracker, so there'll be no switching it on and taking a bus ride.
As you can imagine, BetterPoints is so named because you earn BetterPoints. You earn two points for every minute of activity, up to 300 points a week. There are chances to earn extra by signing up to programmes and filling out surveys.
I filled out a survey on National Fitness Day, answering a couple of questions on what fitness means to me and I won 5,000 BetterPoints which equates to a £5 voucher.
This is brilliant news as BetterPoints also has a better shop. Choose a gift voucher from a host of high street retailers including New Look, Hotel Chocolat, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Evans Cycles. If you're feeling virtuous, you can opt to dish out your points to charity instead.
One of the only criticisms I have are that the distances calculated are all over the place – for the same regular cycle route, it recorded five miles, 5.5 miles, 4.35 miles and 3.92 miles. Then again, that could be my GPS. It’s quite the battery drainer too. I’d say it took up around 5%-7% for a half-hour cycle trip.
Sweatcoin rewards you for walking, allowing you to build up Sweatcoins which you can exchange for some rather swanky rewards.
For every thousand steps you take, you get 0.95 Sweatcoins and at the moment, you only need 130 to bag a pair of compression leggings. Walkers who hit their 10,000 steps a day can buy a pair in less than six months, at least in theory. Like Bounts, you'd need to pay extra cash on top. In this case, £18.50.
I just couldn’t get into it though. It's difficult to get into the habit of putting on an app when you walk to the bus station. If you're about to go for a cycle ride or a run, it's a more conscious action, so switching on an app is easier to remember.
It seemed that every time I walked, it didn’t retain the very few steps I accrued so I couldn’t build up Sweatcoins.
According to the Google Play reviews, I wasn't alone in this. I'd like it if the app had background tracking but Sweatcoin takes up a lot of battery so it's not a realistic option.
Apologies for the sporting cliché, but this one fell at the first hurdle. Apparently, you can only sign into Fitcoin (which pays you in Bitcoin) using Facebook but it wouldn't even let me do that. This app is best avoided.
So, are these fitness apps worth downloading?
If you do a fair amount of physical activity, I'd say so.
Those who are training for an event like a half marathon or cycle sportive might be really motivated to keep going with the promise of rewards. It could even help you cover some of your race day kit. Similarly, if you're starting to think about those New Year's resolutions, the rewards with these apps might help you last past February.
One of the most challenging parts, particularly at the start, is remembering to switch the tracker on. Just give it a few days. Now when I head out for a run or a bike ride, I’ve developed the habit of switching on my BetterPoints app before I head off.
I was only using it for around a month but I earned a little over 1,300 points (not taking the prize winnings into account), which is well on the way to a £2 voucher at 2,000 points. It’ll only pay for a packet of hair ties, mind, but it still helps. Imagine what I could earn after a year.
I probably wouldn’t carry on with Bounts as the only real opportunity for gain is prize draws which, considering how many users the app has, isn’t going to be as consistently rewarding as BetterPoints.
That said, people who use external trackers like Google Fit or Runkeeper might want to sync it up anyway and stay on the lookout for challenges. You could stand to win a cool prize for doing your regular workout!
Sweatcoin deserves another go as it's had some really positive reviews online – I just need to put a reminder sticker on my phone so that I switch it on when I pop to the shops.