While employee wellness programs are important to workplace health, they don't make a difference if employees don't participate. Thankfully, a growing number of fitness apps and high-tech gadgets are popping up, serving as your own personal trainer. With an assortment of these free and affordable options, you can train like a high-profile celebrity, minus the big bucks.

Workplace Wellness

With the human population now living longer, there's also greater prevalence of chronic illness.This has put huge demands on the health care system, with an estimated 75 percent of national health expenses covering health care costs for chronic disease.

According to a recent CareerBuilder study, 41 percent of people gained weight while working at their current jobs. Employees with high-stress or sedentary jobs - sitting at a desk all day - have even higher rates of office weight gain.

Among workers with the highest reports of weight gain are administrative assistants, engineers, nurse practitioners, IT managers, and legal professionals.

While maintaining physical health may be challenging, it's ultimately about personal responsibility. But growing numbers of companies are implementing corporate wellness programs, which offer incentives to stay fit like reimbursement for a fitness club membership or rewards for attending a no-cost health education seminar.

Health care costs in the United States spiked from $256 billion in 1980 to $2.6 trillion in 2010. And while evidence shows that corporate wellness programs have the potential to promote healthy behaviors and boost workplace health, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese.

Getting Motivated

The toughest part of starting a new exercise program typically comes at the six-week and six-month marks. In fact, those first six weeks are crucial. If you make it that far, you're more likely to continue.

And then it may be smooth sailing for a while. Until around the six-month point. This is when boredom strikes. Without motivation, you're not likely to continue your fitness routine.

But with an array of affordable - and often free - fitness apps and gadgets, you have an on-call personal trainer to motivate you to a healthier you. 

1. JEFIT

With JEFIT, you can create a unique workout that targets your goals. The free fitness and bodybuilding app offers an array of workouts and progress-tracking. Users create a JEFIT profile that synchronizes with data so you can download information to your personal account. Perks include hundreds of custom exercises, complete with instructions, animations, and how-to tips. Users can also post to community forums, offering advice and support.

2. Skimble Workout Trainer

Skimble Workout Trainer features thousands of free workouts coached by real-life personal trainers. Working as your private pocket trainer, the app can help you achieve your own unique goals: weight loss, getting more toned, improving your running time, among others. Whatever it may be, Workout Trainer will guide you through each exercise with videos like "Hustle & Run" and "Lucky Leggy Lower" - ranging from Casual to Moderate to Intense, depending on how much you want to feel the burn. For some workplace routines, try "Office Silent 7" or "Work Warriors."

3. StrongLifts 5x5 Workout Tracker

Based on the StrongLifts 5x5 workout - five sets of five reps of free weight compound lifts - which was inspired by bodybuilder Reg Park (he trained Arnold Schwarzenegger), the StrongLifts app has one goal: to make you strong, super-fast, on only three, 45-minute workouts a week.

StrongLifts gives you exercises, instructs you on how much weight to lift (adjusting for potential plateaus), tracks bodyweight and workout dates, and congratulates your goals. The app is available in both pounds and kilograms. And it's completely free.

4. CardioTrainer

CardioTrainer lets you track and record your fitness activity on your Android smartphone. The free GPS-enabled app tracks a variety of exercise - aerobic activity to hiking to yoga, tracking distance, time, pace, heart rate, and calories burned - and includes real-time voice feedback so you don't have to check your phone every five seconds.

CardioTrainer also lets you create custom playlists, with its Autopause feature, which automatically pauses your workout when you hit a traffic light or other temporary delay. Compare yourself to other CardioTrainer users with "World High Scores" for some healthy competition, and motivate yourself with the game "Move Your Bot" by gaining "energy points" to compete with friends.

5. GAIN Fitness Cross Trainer

GAIN iPhone app offers a variety of customized training programs - strength training exercises, yoga, bodyweight training - that will help push you over pesky plateaus. Developed by real-life trainers, the exercises can help you master your technique through high-def images, audio cues (listen to exercise names and receive words of encouragement offered by a real person's voice), and goal-oriented tracking. Pick your favorite digital trainer or find an expansion pack (with additional targeted exercises) to reach your unique fitness goal.

Using the GAIN plan - the tracking calendar - you're held accountable for meeting your fitness goals. Select your workout days, and the GAIN app will send you notifications when it's time to work out. 

6. Nike Training Club

This one's for the ladies. Developed by Nike professional trainers, Nike Training Club is Nike's women-specific personal training app. With 100-plus, custom-built workouts - from full-body to targeted toning - you can shape and tone each and every body part.

How it works: 1) enter your current fitness level, 2) start sweating.

You'll have access to detailed, step-by-step instructions and video demonstrations. Plus, a Nike professional trainer guides you through each step of your workout. Once done, review your workout summary to see calories burned and other stats.

And the more you exercise, the more rewards you reap, including star workouts, earning badges, and getting pro trainer advice.

7. Basis Fitness Watch

Small steps, literally, can lead to big results. Building upon that idea, Basis Fitness Watch helps you build long-lasting healthy habits. The wrist-based health tracker serves as your mini personal tracker by calculating how many steps you've taken, calories burned, sleep quality, and resting heart rate. The Basis dashboard allows you to set daily health habits that automatically adjust your weekly targets based on your progress. The stylish Basis customizable band comes in white or black. Strap it on your wrist and walk your way toward building life-long healthy habits.

8. HAPILABS HapiFork

This is a two-parter. First, there's the HAPILABS fitness app. Available on iPhone, Android, and Windows mobile, you can track your health and fitness progress, keep records of your performance data (sleep, meals, relaxation sessions, and physical activities), and save pictures, videos, and comments.

Then, take mindful eating to a whole new level with HAPILABS HAPIfork, an electronic fork that monitors and tracks your eating habits. The high-tech fork measures your mouthfuls - or "fork servings" - every time you bring food from plate to mouth. It also measures how long it took to eat your meal, amount of fork servings per minute, and alerts you, via indicator lights, when you're eating too fast. All of your information can be uploaded via USB to your Online Dashboard to track your progress.

Combine the HAPIfork with the HAPILABS app to create a coaching program to help improve your eating behavior.

9. Video Games

Mental health is equally as important as physical health. If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, new evidence suggests that an hour a day of video game playing may keep the doctor away, too. One recent study showed that playing video games for one hour each day may improve cognitive performance.

Participants played five different games on their mobile devices for an hour a day, five days a week, for one month. Each participant was assigned one game, which included action, spatial memory, match-three, hidden- object, and agent-based life simulation.

What did researchers find? People who played the action game improved their capacity to track multiple objects in a short time span. And game players who tackled hidden object, match-three, and spatial memory games improved their performance on visual search tasks.

The authors stated that video games don't appear to cause a general improvement in mental abilities. However, like muscles that can be trained through repetition, they suggest that frequent use of certain cognitive processes in video games may improve performance in similar tasks. 

Source: Oei A, Patterson M. Enhancing Cognition with Video Games: A Multiple Game Training Study. PLOS One. 2013.