Your smartphone is a constant companion for calls, texts and web surfing, but many people are now discovering that it can be a powerful ally for their health and wellness, too. With lockdowns forcing people to spend time at home instead of at the gym, people who are used to working out have to adapt their exercise routines to the new at-home reality. It's no surprise that this has made technology take on an even bigger role in personal fitness.

Depending on what phone you have and which apps you use, your smartphone can log a lot of different fitness data. Built-in sensors can track steps, measure altitude (for stairs), evaluate general physical activity, and even do approximate sleep tracking. The results aren't as accurate as they would be when using a smartwatch or dedicated tracker, but your phone can do more than enough to help you begin your journey.

Getting Started

Many platforms and phone manufacturers include their own take on fitness software. Three of the most common and feature-rich are:

  • Google Fit
  • Health on iOS
  • Samsung Health

These will come baked into your smartphone when you buy it, and they offer deep connections to their manufacturer's associated wearables – WearOS for Google, Apple Watch for iOS, and Galaxy Wearables for Samsung.

Step counting, calorie calculation and nutrition tracking are common features found in most fitness apps. Each platform builds around these core experiences by adding new features and creating a unique experience.

Google Fit

Google Fit is designed to simplify fitness. Google worked together with the American Heart Association to create a system called Heart Points to provide a clear and easy way to measure progress toward AHA activity recommendations.

Automated coaching features help Google Fit use your data to generate the right tips and activities for your situation. After you enter in your goals and physical details, the app will do the heavy lifting and give you the instructions and tools you need to reach those goals-- and to monitor your progress along the way.

Samsung Health

Samsung Health is available across phones, wearable, and even TVs. Its offers a holistic view of your health, combining exercise data, nutrition, sleep, and vital signs (if you have a wearable) into one dashboard. It’s not as simple as Google Fit; Samsung chooses to present all of its data to the user instead of boiling it down to an overall point score. Main sections include exercise metrics like active time and floors climbed, self-entered nutrition blocks for food and water, and automatic sleep tracking.

There are also optional items that can be added by users based on their needs. If you own a Galaxy wearable capable of tracking heart rate, blood pressure, or ECG, then Samsung Health can add those to your dashboard. It can also use those statistics to determine stress levels and offer calming advice and meditation routines. Samsung Health can also interface with some blood glucose monitors to help diabetics track their sugar levels. For women, a cycle tracking feature is also available but not shown on the dashboard until added by the user.

On the TV, Samsung Health offers a central, big-screen home for your whole family’s fitness challenges. Samsung TV users can also get additional benefits like free video content from top brands like Jillian Michaels, Calm, Fitplan, and Echelon.

Apple Health

Apple’s Health app uses machine learning to personalize the information it displays. It can learn what you are most interested in so you will see a curated list of fields like exercise data, sleep tracking, or vital signs front and foremost depending on what you check the most. The Health app tracks most of the same information as Samsung Health, but also takes some more detailed measurements like walking speed, step length, and walking asymmetry. Apple also offers connections to a variety of devices and apps to complement the built-in features.

The most unique aspect of Apple’s Health is its focus on medical data. Through the Apple Watch, Apple has led the way in tracking specialized vital signs like ECG and, with the new Series 6, even blood oxygen level. It can also connect with your healthcare providers to collect clinical information including lab results, immunization records, medicines, and ID cards.

The Take Home

Your smartphone can be a great fitness companion. Your device's built-in apps will offer a variety of options for tracking many different aspects of health and wellness. Thanks to the versatility of app stores, you can also expand your options by downloading more specialized apps to fill in any gaps as you put together a comprehensive workout.