Sports have always been an integral part of human lifestyle, becoming even more popular in our days, with numerous fitness apps and trackers. According to Pew Research Center, 21% of Americans own a smartwatch or fitness tracker. Recently the popularity of health and fitness apps has skyrocketed, mainly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And this popularity is so great that even Apple is getting into this. The company launches its first fitness service built around Apple Watch and will include 10 workout types.

During the last week of March 2020, downloads of Health & Fitness apps grew by 67%, and May 2020 saw 48% more sessions than the annual average. 

As gyms and fitness studios have been closed for months due to the COVID-19 virus, people around the world have started to actively use fitness apps in order to stay healthy and in shape. New data from the Adjust marketing platform shows that the trend towards self-development has gradually moved from New Year’s resolutions into quarantine this year, attracting even more users to apps in the Health & Fitness category.

Daily installs of health & fitness apps gradually grew throughout March and early April, up 67% from the 2020 average. However, the growth stalled in May: quarantine caused an increase in installs, but it took users some time to start using these apps more often.

After the peak, the number of installs and sessions began to decline but still remained much higher than in 2019. July figures exceeded the data for 2019, and the number of sessions increased by 61%. This suggests that there are more users, and the apps are launched more often.

Adjust’s data also shows that the users exercise more frequently on Sunday than on other days. On Friday, other plans win: on this day, the minimum number of sessions occurs.

The study also sheds light on regional trends, linking the usage of health and fitness apps to quarantine and subsequent relaxation.

  • The United States saw a significant increase in installs as quarantine tightened at the end of March – 58% higher than the 2020 average. Users started actively using apps in May when the number of daily sessions increased by 25%. Since then, the number of daily sessions has decreased, but in July this figure is still 16% higher, indicating the continued high sports activity.
  • In Germany, app popularity rose at the end of May, with installs of 86% higher than the average. The number of sessions tripled between January and April, reaching 38% by May, up from the annual average. Despite a slight decline in May, the number of sessions from January to July increased by 67%, respectively.
  • In the UK, fitness app installs grew in April, 93% higher than the 2020 average. The sessions have also been rising steadily between late March and late May, peaking on May 25 – 80% higher than the annual average. And although the number of workouts then decreased, July 2020 is still twice as active as in 2019.

Types of Fitness Apps

Fitness apps typically belong to the following categories:

  • Training and workout
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Branded fitness club apps
  • Wellness apps
  • All-in-one apps

Let’s take a closer look at these categories.

Training and workout

This type of fitness app includes workout plans and videos with explanatory comments. A good app from this category should be able to adapt to the user. For example, it should create an individual training plan depending on the goals and initial data, as well as easily monitor the athlete’s progress.

Diet and nutrition

A nutrition-related mobile app should also be tailored to its users’ needs and contain a universal set of such essential tools as:

  • a calorie counter,
  • a collection of video recipes,
  • a progress tracker,
  • tips on supplements and sports nutrition.

Branded fitness club apps

Gyms and fitness clubs use this type of apps for better and more productive interaction with their clients. Such apps should be able to: 

  • offer a convenient way to pay for subscriptions and personal training, 
  • provide useful articles and video instructions, 
  • track individual progress,
  • view live streams from training sessions or seminars.

Wellness apps

This category includes meditation, yoga, and exercise apps with spiritual practices. Most often, these apps post videos and photos with the exercise techniques, motivational content, and various timers. Other functions of wellness apps can be as follows: 

  • Sleep tracking, e.g. Sleep Cycle;
  • Meditation practices, e.g. Oak; 
  • Mindfulness, e.g. Zenify.

All-in-one apps

This type of apps can combine the functionality of several fitness app categories at once. For example, it can be a personal app from a famous athlete, which would reveal the correct exercise technique, the secrets of a balanced diet, and other tools. The more functions an app has, the more convenient it’s monetization is, within which you can enable each function for a separate fee. For example, you can use the freemium monetization model, which will give users free access only to basic features (e.g. counting of steps). At the same time, you can provide paid access to advanced features (e.g. a detailed overview of calories burnt during each activity or detailed sleep tracking). 

Additionally, having one universal app instead of three is much more convenient for users. However, creating and maintaining such apps is significantly more expensive.

Top 10 Must-Have Features for Health & Fitness Apps

It is up to you to decide on the features your fitness app will include, as well as its design and monetization model. But in this section, we are going to share 10 features that we consider important for all fitness app categories listed above in order to secure high user acquisition and engagement rates. 

1. User personalization

This feature refers to collecting user info like age, gender, weight, height, etc. for the creation of customized nutrition and/or workout plans. Personalization is an integral part of any mobile app, especially a fitness app. It allows you to improve user experience and at the same time increase your profit. If the user feels that the app addresses their personal needs and helps achieve their fitness goals – not those of someone else – then they will keep coming back to the app. 

Some apps go a step further and integrate artificial intelligence to personalize the user experience. For example, in 2019, a German company Plan.Net developed the Butterfly Coach fitness app, which sets new standards in personal training. Butterfly Coach differs from other similar apps with a fundamentally new approach to training: instead of selling a ready-made 12-week program, the app provides the user with a virtual personal AI coach. The trainer is available to the user 24/7 in a chatbot format that shares ideas and tips for leading an active, healthy, and happy lifestyle.

2. Wearable and non-wearable device integration

Today the majority of users have multiple devices that help them track and improve their sports activities. That’s why it is crucial to make sure your app provides a quick and easy synchronization with a fitness tracker and mobile device. Some well-known examples are Huawei Health by Huawei, Mi Fit by Xiaomi, and Fitness+ by Apple. The apps are integrated both with smartphones and wearable watches. 

Additionally, it is possible to sync the data from other fitness apps with the Apple Health app for iOS devices and Google Fit app for Android. For example, both apps support Strava and MyFitnessPal. Here is the information about apps supported by Apple Health and Google Fit

Besides, the user of a health and fitness app should have access to their profile, training programs, and other functionality not only on their smartphone or tablet but even on a regular personal computer or laptop. This means that part of the data must be stored in cloud data storages. This requires the participation of highly qualified developers who will not only be able to set up a fast uninterrupted data exchange with the cloud but also adequately protect the personal data of users.

3. Activity summaries by specific time period

This function gives the user an overview of their fitness activities by day, week, month, or other time period. It helps evaluate the progress in a given period of time and set long term goals accordingly. For example, Fitbit provides a weekly report that the user can both view in the app and get in an email newsletter.

4. Goal setting

The key purpose of most fitness apps is to help the users bring themselves and their bodies to measurable results. The user sets the desired results themselves, which means that the process of goal setting should be very simple and clear. 

For example, the Fitness & Health Habit Tracker app focuses on setting goals related to sports activities and nutrition. The user needs to choose a task, set a target by inputting a goal value or a certain date, and then specify the action that they need to do to achieve that goal. The app also shows the task performance statistics for the last week.

5. Tracking metrics

Any kind of sport is about numbers. Repetitions, sets, calories, hours, kilometers, kilograms, miles, pounds – everything can be counted. This data is important because the user can track their progress in measurable units, become motivated by this information, and continue using the app to achieve more. 

There are lots of metrics to track, but apps need to make sure that they highlight only the few that are most important for their app to avoid information overload. A graphical overview of the metrics would also be a good option so that the user gets their fitness routine summary at their fingertips. 

For example, the key metrics in Runtastic, a fitness app by Adidas, are the distance (kilometers/miles), duration (hours, minutes, seconds etc.), and calories. The app shows these metrics as a convenient graphical overview, including the route map with the color codes indicating the most active segments of this route. 


6. Push notifications

Push notifications have long been an integral part of a successful app’s toolbox. Correct use of push notifications helps to increase not only engagement but also the average time spent in the app by users. In fitness apps, push notifications can remind users of the start of a workout, the next mealtime, and other important events. 

Here’s an example from the 12 Minutes Athlete app:

To get the most out of push notifications, do not create them manually. We recommend setting up marketing automation to send personalized push notifications based on the user journey. You can use specialized marketing automation tools for better user engagement.

7. Social sharing

In the age of social media, it is hard to imagine a fitness app without social integration. People love to communicate and show off their accomplishments, so fitness tracking applications use these human weaknesses to their advantage. Sharing, chatting with friends, and interacting with others will allow users to spend more time in the app, which will have a positive impact on the app’s KPIs. For example, the Nike Run Club app allows its users to share their results on a number of social media platforms:

8. Community

Sports is more motivating when it’s a competition. Building a community around your fitness app is the best way to engage and retain users. By seeing how their friends or fitness influencers achieve their goals with the app, the users will be aware of the value that this app brings. 

For example, Fitbit has the Community feature where users can:

  • meet like-minded people by joining interest groups;
  • find friends who already use the app; 
  • post updates about their activities;
  • follow other users or influencers in the app. 

Another example is Fitplan, an app with a community feed where users can connect with friends and Fitplan trainers, share their workouts and thoughts on various topics like nutrition, lifestyle, physique, etc. 
To create a community of users inside your app, we recommend using specialized tools such as GetSocial’s Activity Feeds.

9. Gamification

Gamification refers to applying the principles from video games in a non-game environment. Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter, the authors of the world’s first book on gamification, believe that business would be much more efficient if work was more a game with a reward system than a duty. This is also true for fitness routines.

Fitocracy is a gamified app and a website that addresses one of the hardest motivational challenges: encouraging people to exercise. By using various characteristics inherent in video games, such as levels, quests, badges, and points, the app motivates people to go to the gym. The app users are encouraged to keep track of their running and gym activities. When they move on to more intense training, they get rewards as well as share information, tips, and success stories on social media.

Read more: Is Gamification the Only Way for Apps to Survive?

Fitocracy allows its users to compete against each other in virtual duels in categories such as “best bench press” or “longest distance runner”. However, even here there are sections for fans who turn duels into a collective communication experience.

10. Video tutorials

Fitness mobile apps have quite a diverse audience that prefers different ways of delivering information. For those who perceive information visually, the app can implement video tutorials that show the techniques for specific workouts. Especially with the gym and fitness studios being closed due to the pandemic, some kind of guidance and support, even though in a virtual way, is helpful. Videos are also motivating and contain music that cheers up the users. 

For example, the TRX workout app offers lots of training videos between 20 and 40 minutes. It is also possible to sync the app with a fitness tracker and get various statistics.

Additional features to consider

There are many other features that you can come up with to extend the functionality of your app, including the barcode scanner, nutrition and recipes database, online consultations, and others.

For example, MyFitnessPal enables its users to scan the labels of various foods and view information about those foods, such as calories, total fat, cholesterol, sodium, protein, iron, etc.

And the Cookpad app offers over 5 million recipes:

Cost of Fitness App Development

So how much does it cost to build the best workout app? The costs depend on the required features, mobile platform, complexity, required tech stack, and even the location of your development team.

It is most convenient to base the app development calculations on an estimate of the specialist’s work time. For this, we need to consider only the “net” hours. Here are the approximate figures for each stage of the development:

  • Preparation of the project (identification of needs, preparation of technical specifications, structure, basic capabilities) – about 50 hours.
  • Design (UI and UX) – about 100 hours.
  • Backend, Frontend and Mobile development  – about 250 hours.
  • Integration with third party services like payment platform, analytics, push notifications, etc. – about60 hours.

In general, the average development time for such an app will be about 460 hours of “net” time. Based on the average hourly rate for a qualified developer of about $40, the very approximate cost of developing such an application will be over $20,000. Keep in mind that the numbers can vary significantly depending on the app’s complexity and rates of the development company you work with. 

How to Grow a Health and Fitness App

It’s not enough just to build a fitness app. After the release, you need to invest effort into making it known to the target audience. Here are the channels that you can use to promote your health & fitness app. 

Influencer marketing 

Collaborate with influencers in the health and fitness industry so they can promote your app on social media. People trust influencers and can quickly follow their recommendations. As per research by Bigcommerce, 65% of influencer marketing budgets will increase in 2020. Here’s how the 8fit app collaborates with the “What I Eat in a Day” YouTube channel.

Read more: How to Use the Power of Influencer Marketing to Promote Your Mobile App

Referral programs 

People also have their “personal influencers” – friends and relatives whose recommendations they trust. By participating in a referral program, users can generate a custom link to the app and invite their acquaintances in exchange for a reward. 

Read more: How to Succeed in In-App Referral Marketing in 5 Simple Steps

This involves paying a third party ad network to display your ads on various media channels: paid press releases, Facebook targeted ads, popular ad networks, app directory listings, etc. 

Content marketing 

This refers to writing articles related to health and fitness on a company blog, with tips and tricks on how your fitness app can help the readers stay fit and healthy. For example, in their blog post Indoor Winter Activities Fitbit mentions guided yoga classes that can be accessed via Fitbit Premium.

Read more: How to Create a Content Strategy for Your Mobile App

How to Monetize Fitness Apps

There are the following options for the promotion and monetization of the best fitness apps:

  • Subscription or one-time fee
  • Affiliate marketing / Sponsored advertising
  • Freemium model
  • Paid downloads
  • In-app advertising

The choice of a monetization model depends on the functionality and target audience.

Subscription or one-time fee

You can make a one-time purchase of the app and never again take money from users. But it is also possible to offer users a subscription for a week, month, year, or any other period with a prepayment for the expected period of using the app. By the way, the subscription monetization model is the most profitable of all the models in the long run.

Affiliate marketing

Customers follow referral links that bring them to online stores of sports nutrition, exercise equipment, sportswear, etc., and the owner of the fitness app receives their percentage of each brought customer.

Freemium model

The basic functionality of the app is free but it is possible to unlock some extra features through in-app purchases. It can be personalized training plans, ad removal, etc. The developers should carefully choose which app features to provide free of charge and which ones to put into the paid set. The minimum free features should give users a taste of what the app can do, and premium features should complete the experience that is worth their money.

Before using your app, users might pay to install it. The price depends on the app type and content as well as the mobile platform. However, this model does not seem to be popular among the fitness app developers: for example, the top fitness apps are either free, or subscription-based, or freemium.

In-app advertising

Showing ads to app users is one of the most common app monetization strategies. There are two options here. The first is to conclude a contract directly with an advertiser (a manufacturer of sports nutrition or training clothing, for example) and brand the application for it. The second is to connect the ad networks SDK and use those networks to broadcast the ads. 


Check out our email course to learn more about mobile app marketing.

Over to You

The popularity of fitness and health apps has skyrocketed in 2020 as a result of self-isolation due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Therefore, if you are planning to build a health fitness app, it is your chance to quickly conquer the market. Make sure that the app contains the following features:

  • User personalization
  • Wearable and non-wearable  device integration
  • Activity summaries by a specific time period
  • Goals setting
  • Tracking metrics
  • Push notifications
  • Social sharing 
  • Community
  • Gamification 
  • Video tutorials 

We wish you good luck in conquering the market and joining the best fitness apps.