Besides telling time and displaying notifications, an Apple Watch functions primarily as a health and fitness tracker. Right out of the box, the Series 4 device can monitor your heart rate, count steps taken and calories burned, record physical activities from yoga to swimming, remind you to take breaks from work, and more.
And that’s not all. Add in some dedicated apps, and the wearable becomes capable of boosting your health even more. We’ve selected some of the Apple Watch’s top fitness apps—install a few and start feeling the burn.
Among runners and cyclists, Strava is already one of the most popular activity-tracking smartphone apps. Its companion program for the Apple Watch adds the convenience of recording movement from your wrist, so athletes can leave their phones at home.
When you wear your Apple Watch, its Strava app can log workouts from start to finish, displaying your stats—time, pace, distance, speed, and heart rate—on screen as you go. After you finish, the wearable will show a summary of your session and sync this information back to your phone as soon as you return to its range. In total, Strava will track eight different types of activities, from those morning jogs or afternoon bike rides to hiking and skiing.
You don’t need to buy a premium subscription to get this Apple Watch functionality. However, if you do choose to upgrade, you’ll receive extra analysis and additional features to help you set goals.
Strava for iOS, free or $3 to $5 per month for a premium subscription
If you’re aiming to eat better, a food diary can help you monitor your calorie intake. Looking for a digital version of this tool? Lifesum lets you track your eating and drinking from your phone or your wrist.
The Apple Watch app that comes with this diet and nutrition tracker is one of the most comprehensive we’ve seen for the wearable: You can view detailed readings of your carbs, protein, and fat intake for the day; scroll back through your meal records; and log water intake without unlocking your phone. In fact, the app is so impressive that Apple included a demo of it during the launch of the Apple Watch Series 4.
Lifesum offers most of its features for free. However, if you go for the $3 monthly subscription, you’ll receive additional nutrition advice and diet recommendations, personalized for you and your diet goals.
Lifesum for iOS, free or $3 per month for a premium subscription
Streaks bills itself as a to-do list that helps you form good habits. In other words, you decide on something you want to do regularly—sweating through a certain number of push ups, drinking eight glasses of water, and so on—and the app makes sure you remember to perform your task day after day. You can specify 12 different tasks to track, then customize each of these goals with colors and icons, which encourage you to keep your streak going. For more motivation, the app provides statistics that show you how well your willpower lasts over time.
If you’d prefer to leave your phone unlocked, the Apple Watch companion app lets you log habits or view streaks from your wrist. The developers also offer a special Streaks watch face that clearly displays the daily tasks you still have to check off your list.
Although this app isn’t free, you only have to pay a one-time fee instead of shelling out for a monthly or annual subscription.
Streaks for iOS, $5
Period trackers aren’t perfect, but they do provide a convenient way to monitor your cycle. In addition to its primary function, Clue keeps you informed with health information and analyzes your data to spot trends and potential health issues. Plus, it syncs between your phone and smartwatch.
From your Apple Watch, you can see the data you’ve already logged and view predictions about when your period might start. Not only is Clue smart, it’s also easy to navigate around and a breeze to use, whether you’re using the app on your phone or your wearable.
All those benefits are free, but the premium version of Clue, which costs $1 a month or $10 a year, comes with additional intelligent forecasts. It can predict when in your cycle you might experience premenstrual syndrome, cramps, and other patterns.
Clue for iOS, free or $1 per month for a premium subscription
If you wear your Apple Watch to the gym, a comprehensive app like Gymaholic will help you stick to your schedule. It lets you plan your sessions ahead of time, helping you determine which muscles you want to work and how hard you want to push yourself. Then it pings you with reminders to make sure you stay on track. Where the app really excels is in the little guided demonstrations it shows for every exercise in its catalog—and it has a lot.
With the companion Apple Watch app, you can leave your phone behind. Glance at the screen to see how to carry out a particular activity, as viewed from any angle. When you’re comfortable with an exercise, run through your sets and reps, recording your progress on your wearable as you go.
You can test out Gymaholic for free, at least for a week. After that, the app costs $4 a month or $32 a year.
Gymaholic for iOS, $4 per month with a 7-day free trial
6. Nike+ Run Club
Avid runners, whether or not they own one of the Nike edition models of the Apple Watch, should load up their wearable with the Nike+ Run Club app. As you’d expect, it tracks your runs, providing detailed maps and statistics for each session. But the app goes way beyond that. For example, you can hear audio prompts that help keep you on course with your target pace—you can even have friends record these encouragements for you. As the app learns your habits, you’ll also see your progress over time and receive personalized coaching plans tailored to your own pace and targets.
What we like about the Apple Watch support is that you get so much of the main app—including coached runs and mapping features—right on your wrist. At the same time, the design makes everything clear and simple so you can view the necessarily information at a glance while you’re on the move. Plus, all this is free.
Nike+ Run Club for iOS, free
If Lifesum doesn’t suit you, try a different digital food diary. MyFitnessPal is one of the most popular diet-tracking apps on any platform, but we particularly like its Apple Watch integration. Like the phone version, it lets you log your food and water intake as quickly and intuitively as possible.
Through your phone or your wearable, MyFitnessPal lets you see how many calories you’ve consumed and compares that total to the amount you’ve burned through exercise. The app can even break down your nutrient intake into carbohydrates, fat, protein, and so on. A quick glance at your wrist can thus give you a detailed look at your diet for the day.
Due to its popularity, MyFitnessPal comes with a number of third-party apps and services that can connect to it, including the Apple Health app and the Endomondo fitness platform. However, some of these integrations, as well as features like detailed food analysis and data export, require a $10/month premium subscription.
MyFitnessPal for iOS, free or $10 per month for a premium subscription
8. Pocket Yoga
The Pocket Yoga app includes everything you need to work through your asanas. It lets you improve your moves with guided audio and visual instructions, keep an ongoing log of the practices you’ve already completed, and check your progress with heart rate and calorie data pulled from the Apple Health app. In total, you can pick from 27 different sessions of varying duration and difficulty.
When you download the companion Apple Watch app, you get all of this aid on your wrist. That removes the need to carefully balance your phone on a corner of the coffee table so you can see what you’re supposed to be doing. The smartwatch also gives you control over the app’s built-in exercise timers.
The price is also pretty low: Once you’ve put down the initial $3 for the app, there’s nothing more to pay.
Pocket Yoga for iOS, $3
9. Swing Tennis Tracker
For tennis buffs who want to see how they’re performing, Swing Tennis Tracker actually makes use of metrics measured by the Apple Watch itself, rather than an attached iPhone. It tracks everything from the speed of your shots to your percentage of first serves to the number of calories you burn out on the court. If you’re looking for someone to play against or partner up with, the app also helps you find and communicate with other tennis players who use the same program.
Again, you can check all this information on your wearable. And, with the help of Siri, you can save all the relevant match and practice data on your smart watch as well. Because the app is social, it can connect with other Apple Watches on the court to keep your scores together. Once you get near your smartphone again, all the gathered information can sync back to the main app.
Although this basic version is free, you can buy a $5/month premium subscription to unlock extra features, like additional stats and insights on your game.
Swing Tennis Tracker for iOS, free or $5 per month for a premium subscription