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The 9 Best Apps That Work With Apple’s New HealthKit Feature

·National Correspondent, Technology

She’s just watching the pounds fall off! (Thinkstock)

Apple’s latest iOS 8 update comes with a long-awaited feature: the ability for health and fitness products to connect and share information with your iOS device through a new service called HealthKit. Whatever the apps track — the distance you’ve walked, the hours you’ve slept, or what you’ve eaten — can be stored on your phone, right there in a nicely organized database.

Categories for health data are vast, and HealthKit is still in its early days, so things are a little chaotic in this space. Each compatible app is fighting to be your go-to health dashboard, and, as a result, there are a lot of options to work through. (For instance, Jawbone’s UP integrates with Apple’s HealthKit, but it can itself use data from other third-party apps. It’s complicated.)

Want to experiment with HealthKit? Our advice is to take it one step at a time. Download an app or two from this list and see how it influences your daily habits. The last thing you want is to feel fatigued by fitness apps before you’ve even gone for a run.

Here are the best apps to get started with.

1. UP
Previously, Jawbone’s UP app worked only with its line of wearable activity-tracking bands. But, starting this week, anyone can use it, band or not, and it now fully integrates into the Apple-approved HealthKit stats folder.

Jawbone UP screenshot
Jawbone UP screenshot

UP tracks the three pillars of your general fitness: steps, sleep, and food. If you have the band, the first two of those things are generally taken care of for you. The third requires you to either enter in the food items you eat manually or to scan a barcode with the app. But this process can be incredibly time-consuming, especially when it comes to entering in portions. I don’t know about you, but I rarely measure the amount of spaghetti I eat during a meal in terms of ounces.

Socially, however, UP is a rewarding app. It allows you to join your friends’ “teams” and offer words of encouragement on their activities (however creepy they may sound). And it subscribes to a philosophy of positive reinforcement, setting goals for you and offering congratulations when you achieve them. You can adjust the settings so that it doesn’t ever mention weight loss, if that’s not something you want in your face every day.

Free; download it here.

2. MyFitnessPal
MyFitnessPal is the go-to tool for anyone who wants to sign up for a hardcore exercise regime. It allows you to set up a profile with an aim to either lose weight, maintain weight, or gain weight. Then it asks a couple of questions about how active you are at work and your current personal stats. At the end of the survey, it calculates a total number of calories per day that you’re allowed to consume (unfortunately the only way you can keep track of this is by entering your meals, which, again, is time-consuming). It’ll also tell you the date that you should reach the first milestone in your goal, and the amount of weight you’ll have lost by then. This is a satisfying way to cross-reference your progress within the app with the changes in your tangible human body.

MyFitnessPal screenshot
MyFitnessPal screenshot

Throughout the day, the app also tracks your exercise, so you’re allotted some eating elbow room if you’re more active throughout the day. Overall, it’s an intuitive, results-based design for anyone looking to transform herself.

Free; download it here.

3. Carrot Fit
You may recall the Carrot Fit app, an exercise tool that takes a military-style approach to whipping you into shape, which we wrote about earlier this year. The company’s updated version now feeds HealthKit data about your active calories, weight, and workouts, while it sucks in data about your dietary calories, steps, and weight (which are presumably gathered from other fitness apps). This way, it can monitor your actions even more closely and inevitably find even more reasons to shame you.

Carrot Fit screenshot
Carrot Fit screenshot

Carrot Fit is well designed and effective for anyone who needs some serious yelling at to be motivated to exercise. That being said, from the very beginning, the app itself only has two real functions: one to “weigh in” and another to workout.

As you continue to be active and report progress, you’re assigned points, and the more points you accumulate, the higher the level you unlock. Each new level comes with a reward within the app (for example, a “Pretty Chart,” an exercise calendar, and a BMI calculator). Yes, that’s a good way to motivate a person, but other apps offer that kind of stuff without requiring any work whatsoever.

Overall it’s a tool of encouragement, rather than one for detailed tracking. But if you’re into your computer yelling at you, this is where to go.

$2.99; download it here.

4. Human
Human’s exercise philosophy is based on one simple concept: People should be continuously active for at least 30 minutes every day. So that’s what it tracks: the longest amount of time you’ve moved around every day. That number is displayed in a circle on the home screen of the app, The completion of the circle depends on the amount of time you’ve spent moving around. The app also tracks your spurts of movement separately, so that they’re displayed in beats whenever you open the app.

Human screenshot
Human screenshot

Human is great for anybody who’s less focused on weight loss or muscle gain and more concerned with doing the bare minimum required to be a healthy person who lives beyond her 50s. I like it for its simplicity and easy-to-use design. It’s also very satisfying to see the completion of that circle after a quick workout at the gym.

Free; download it here.

5. Map My Run
The nice thing about being a runner is that you can do it pretty much anywhere. Map My Run gets that and allows you to search for, bookmark, and create routes to your liking. It’ll tell you the run’s distance from your current location, its length, and any notable natural features (like a lake or a hill).

Map My Run screenshot
Map My Run screenshot

Other interesting features include a gear monitoring function, which allows you to enter in the brand of shoe you wear on runs so that the app can recommend when it’s time to buy new ones. And if you really want to go all in, you can search for and sign up for sponsored runs. This one’s for the hardcore runners out there.

Free; download it here.

6. Motion 24/7 Sleeptracker
Motion 24/7 is all about stats, and lots of ’em. Much like the other apps on this list, it tracks your sleep, steps, activity, and weight. But it also measures something different: your heart rate. To do this, you must place your finger over your iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus’s camera lens and flash. The sensor in the camera will record your pulse for a full 60 seconds and then tell you your average beats per minute. I was pretty blown away with how responsive it was when I tested it.

Motion 24/7 Sleeptracker screenshot
Motion 24/7 Sleeptracker screenshot

This app also monitors your snoring, sleep apnea, and talking in your sleep through the microphone while you doze. Yes, that’s sort of creepy, but it may also be helpful for anyone wants to kick a bad habit.

99 cents, download it here.

7. Fitnet
Fitnet is a spin on your traditional workout video regime, only the workouts are shorter and your trainer can be right there with you. The home screen allows you to choose a real, live personal trainer (handpicked by the Fitnet team) who will follow your progress and offer you tips and encouragement through an in-app messaging system. (At the moment, every available trainer has a wait list, but once you’re accepted they’re free for 14 days then cost $19/month to keep around). 

Fitnet screenshot
Fitnet screenshot

You can add the different types of workouts — categorized in areas like cardio and muscle-building — to your calendar, and the app will remind you to do them each day.

The exercises themselves demand a certain level of attention. They’re pre-taped videos between three and 10 minutes long that monitor your activity via your iPhone’s camera. At the end of the workout, you’re given a score based on how well you moved. It seems like a good idea! My only gripe is that you could be so focused on pleasing the creepy exercise camera that you’re not actually paying attention to your body’s limits or muscle movements.

Free; download it here.

8. Centered
Centered is probably the most low-key of all the apps. It simply tracks your steps per day and the number of meditation sessions you complete each week. There are no animations, annoying sounds, or social networks. Just some straightforward information about your activity and quiet time. It’s so free of bells and whistles that it’s relaxing to open.

Centered meditation app screenshot
Centered meditation app screenshot

Free; download it here.

9. 7 Minute Workout
I find myself relishing the simplicity of this app. No signing up, no entering your age and name. Just a list of 12 high-intensity exercises. The majority of the exercises are things you probably learned to do in your high school gym class. But just in case you don’t know what a side plank is, there’s a one-paragraph description and an instructional video for each short workout.

7 Minute Workout screenshot
7 Minute Workout screenshot

If you want to change it up a bit, you can swipe left for alternatives (Tinder for exercise? Anyone?). Either that or make your own workout with some of the choices provided.

Free; download it here.

Follow Alyssa Bereznak on Twitter or email her here.