Fitness apps are becoming the obsession of the moment. The prominence of the likes of Fitbit (http://www.fitbit.com), the Apple’s Health App (https://www.apple.com/ios/ios8/health/) and the new Google Fit app (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/10897506/Google-Fit-for-Android-to-take-on-Apple-HealthKit.html) add to the ubiquityof apps in this developing market.
I never thought I would be able to exercise and I did not believe that an app would be able to solve my exercise fears until I discovered Virtuagym (www.virtuagym.com) which is available on iPhone (http://itunes.apple.com/nl/app/virtuagym/id514316985) and android phones (http://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=digifit.virtuagym.client.android).
What I like about VirtuaGym
VirtuaGym is a simple app providing exercises for the home, home gym or actual gym. Its main selling point is a virtual person caller 'Brad Fit', who demonstrates the exercises for you and does them with you in real time. Now I know this might sound stupid, but it actually works well for someone like me. I am a complete novice to exercise, and therefore I tend to rush into exercises too fast and get tired very easily and very quickly. The app slows me down. It makes me think about each stage of the exercise and most importantly does all the counting and timing for me.
It has a very simple fitness test you can do which involves recording your height, weight etc. and asks you to do jumping jacks for two minutes, and then do as many lunges, press-ups and sit-ups as you can in addition to recording your pulse. This is not ideal for the beginner, as I could not have done 2 minutes of jumping jacks to save my life when I first started using the app.
I started on a predefined workout called the Morning Workout (Novice) which gives you a lot of stretching exercises which when you do them slowly build up your core strength. After doing these regularly for a month, I ventured further into doing more exercises and exploring other levels.
The app allows for a range of customisation. for example, when you get into some of the more advanced stages you are required to run twice a week. Now, I do not run. Even my kids have not managed to get me to run yet so and app is up against a lot of resistance. I cycle, on a road bike, instead. I can reconfigure my workouts so that I can cycle instead of running. I can and have also designed my own workout regime which I do every day when I am not cycling.
Since I started using the app I have developed core strength and slowly building up stamina as well. In fact I would not have got the bike if it had not been for my abilities developing fast whilst using the app.
What I don’t like about the app
No app is perfect, and much as I love VirtuaGym, there are some irritations, which are with the design. Firstly, Brad Fit can provide, as default, motivational speech. Now this might sound good, but this is a computerised voice with no emotion saying things such as “heads will turn” which might well be the case, but as a bloke in his fifties, this is possibly not because I am great looking with a ripped body, but rather because I am drooling or some such other reason. Also If I am to get motivational speech from a man I want an army sergeant shouting at me and ordering me to continue. In preference I would actually rather like a female voice, telling me how hot I look as this might help the ego a little.
You can customise, but the customisation is very limited and predefined workout elements are not available for you to customise in your own workout. To obtain better customisation, you are encouraged to sign up to a monthly Pro package. I tend to object to anything I have to pay for monthly, as I will tend to lose interest and continue paying, so I avoid this at all costs which is sad as I would gladly pay a few quid for a pro version of the app providing more customisation and bespoke reports etc. on a one of basis. I am sure there are many others who would do the same.
The reports are a final issue for me. I would like to see how many exercises I did today, this week, this moth and how many calories I burned etc. The app only provides a running total, which misses the point somehow. I know for example that I have done 1,684 minutes of exercise and burned 15,425 calories since I started using the app. I have not lost weight but it is redistributed somewhat. On the website, which uses Flash to animate the characters, there is more information, but I like many other people access the information through the app and rarely go to the site. As I am an android user, the flash elements of the site are lost to me from my mobile devices.
I have only scratched the surface on what this app can do. I have not mentioned the achievement badges you get and the other elements of the app and community that come with using the app. I have on the other hand, tried many other apps and not found any to compare. I now feel I should exercise and actually enjoy the burn and the sweat. I have only used the app for a few months but I know I will continue to do so for many more. I also suspect that as Google and Apple reveal more about their health apps they will be using some of the best bits form this app.
The app is free to download and use but there is an in app purchase of the Pro mode if you feel you want to sign up to this instead of a gym. Personally, I will stick to the free mode until a one off payment for Pro becomes available and then I will assess whether the value is worth the price of the upgrade.
So overall, I love the app and would want to promote it to others as I think it is excellent. Of course, if you are a seasoned athlete, this app is possibly not for you. However, for everyone else it is ideal.