Six Mobile Apps to Get Patients Started Exercising


Patients have many reasons for not being active. These apps can help push past some of those obstacles.

Fam Pract Manag. 2018 Sep-Oct;25(5):OA1-OA5.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.


A handout of six recommended apps for exercise is available for download:

 Download in PDF format

Exercise delivers numerous physical and psychological benefits to patients, including both the prevention and treatment of disease. However, many patients do not obtain the recommended 150 minutes of weekly moderate activity.1 In fact, some may not register this amount of activity on a monthly basis. There are numerous reasons why people choose not to exercise, including a lack of time, interest, finances, proper workout facilities, or external support.

The transportability of mobile phones means patients can use them while exercising, and numerous fitness applications can help address each of the above excuses. This article focuses on six apps that are free and do not require exercise equipment. All earned top ratings when reviewed using FPM's “SPPACES” criteria.


S — Source or developer of app

P — Platforms available

P — Pertinence to primary care practice

A — Authoritativeness/accuracy/currency of information

C — Cost

E — Ease of use

S — Sponsor(s)


J&J Official 7 Minute Workout teaches users a high-intensity full-body work-out that they can complete within seven minutes.

Source: Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions Inc.

Platforms available: Android 4.4 or later (https://bit.ly/2tyazQr); iOS 10.0 or later for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (https://apple.co/2tpMudN).

Pertinence to primary care practice: A major barrier patients cite for not exercising is a lack of time. But exercising for as little as seven minutes per day has been shown to make visible changes. In one study, normal weight individuals who followed the seven-minute workout experienced a 4-centimeter reduction in hip and waist circumference over three weeks without changing their eating habits.2 Another study found that physically inactive participants maintained enthusiasm for exercise better when doing high-intensity functional training than when doing moderate activity.3

Authoritativeness/accuracy/currency of information: The app was created by the director of exercise physiology at Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute. It has 22 programmed workouts and the option to create custom workouts that last up to 32 minutes using 72 different exercises. Users can like and dislike certain exercises, set a fitness level, and log their motivation level for exercise. The app can then use this information to create personalized Smart Workouts. Users can also set workout and inactivity reminders as well as track workouts and share them with friends on Facebook and Twitter. For iPhone users, the app can integrate information with Apple Health. The app was last updated in February 2018 (Android) and June 2018 (iOS).

Cost: Free.

Ease of use: The app's interface during workouts is phenomenal; users can listen to their own songs, view a workout timer, or watch a coach perform the exercise


Dr. Rebedew is a family physician at Monroe Clinic in Albany, Wis., and a faculty member for the University of Illinois Rockford Family Medicine Residency.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.


show all references

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical activity guidelines. July 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/policies_practices/physical_activity/guidelines.htm. Accessed June 29, 2018....

2. Mattar L, Farran N, Bakhour D. Effect of 7-minute workout on weight and body composition. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2017;57(10):1299–1304.

3. Heinrich KM, Patel PM, O'Neal JL, Heinrich BS. High-intensity compared to moderate-intensity training for exercise initiation, enjoyment, adherence, and intentions: an intervention study. BMC Public Health. 2014;14:789.

4. Schoeppe S, Alley S, Van Lippevelde W, et al. Efficacy of interventions that use apps to improve diet, physical activity, and sedentary behaviour: a systematic review. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2016;13(1):127.

5. Mascarenhas MN, Chan JM, Vittinghoff E, Van Blarigan EL, Hecht F. Increasing physical activity in mothers using video exercise groups and exercise mobile apps: randomized controlled trial. J Med Internet Res. 2018;20(5):e179.

6. Linton L, Valentin S. Running with injury: a study of UK novice and recreational runners and factors associated with running related injury [published online ahead of print May 24, 2018]. J Sci Med Sport. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1440244018301798. Accessed July 29, 2018.


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