It's a new year, and so getting fit and trim is probably on your list of resolutions. To that end, we've already recommended 22 health and fitness apps to help you achieve your new year goals. But are your kids thinking about fitness? Studies show that many teens and younger children could use more guidance around eating right and getting in shape.
Screen addiction is part of the problem. Yet mobile devices can also be part of the solution when they're put to work with some fun and motivational fitness apps.
Houston, we all have a problem
In a recent study measuring the fitness levels of 9- to 17-year-olds from 50 countries, the US landed in a lowly 47th place. According to yet another report, the prevalence of obesity in the US increases from about 15 percent in kindergarten to 20 percent in eighth grade.
Meanwhile, the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) estimates that less than 10 percent of US teens get the recommended one hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day.
And here's a big reason why: American kids spend an average of seven hours a day in front of electronic screens according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. Numerous other studies have pointed to links between too much passive screen time and problems with obesity, sleep deprivation, depression, and cognitive and social development.
Even if your kids aren't overweight, learning how to eat right from a young age can set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating habits. Beyond preventing obesity, physical exercise is great for increasing your child's strength, agility, balance, coordination, and range of motion.
So let's get out in front of the problem. Here are 20 apps that your family can use for building better fitness while simultaneously having fun. Some apps are geared to children as young as two or three, whereas others are targeted at teens and adults (you want to be a role model for your kids, don't you?).
1. Veggie Circus Farm
This is a highly engaging app that gets the youngest members of your family --one and two-year-olds--to start hearting vegetables. Without needing to know how to read, children can learn the names of veggies and to recognize why these foods are good for them to eat.
Brianna the Butterfly and Brian the Bee lead toddlers through the four parts of the app Veggie School is a set of photos that teach facts about specific vegetables. In Veggie Play, children can interact with the veggies while exercising their brain power. The Veggie Circus Show is a very entertaining show that helps to reinforce what children are learning about various veggies. On the Prize Page, kids can play with sticker prizes they're learned and use their imaginations to create make believe stories they can share.
The animations are captivating, and the music lively. A free Lite version lets you try out the app with three vegetables. The full version, priced at 99 cents, includes 15 veggies. The app is available for both iOS and Android.
2. Awesome Eats
Awesome Eats is an entertaining game which you can play with somewhat older kids on an ongoing basis--through up to 64 different levels--for teaching and learning about nutrition.
By sorting, stacking, and packing healthy foods like fruits, veggies, and whole grains, you can earn awards. Win extra points by tapping away thieving birds trying to get at the goodies! The developers, the Whole Kids Foundation, recently added a new level focusing on recycling and composting.
In between levels, the app doles out lots of tips about yummy yet nutritious edibles.This free app is downloadable for iOS and Android devices as well as Windows.
3. NFL Play 60
The 9- to 11 set will love this one. When you move your body, your character moves on the screen in sync. Kids need to run, jump, and make quick turns if they want to collect the coins required for unlocking funky new characters.
In the latest edition of NFL Play 60, kids can compete against other players for most yards, longest runs, and highest scores.
Produced by the American Heart Association (AHA), the game is free. It's downloadable for both iOS and Android.
4. Sworkit Kids
Aimed at 7- to 14-year-olds, Sworkit Kids challenges tweens to perform activities like crab crawling for 30 seconds, hopping on one foot, and doing 10 squats. The app uses children in the accompanying videos to make it easier for children to follow along.
If you bring your kids to the gym, they'll have their own special workout app. As a parent, you can also try Sworkit for grown-ups. All apps are based on the technique of combining interval training with randomized exercises to keep you from ever getting bored.
Available for both Android and iOS, Sworkit Kids is not just free, but also ad-free.
The adult app is available for Android, iOS, and the web--either in an ad-supported free version or a premium edition that is priced at $2.99 per month. The premium version adds a lot of features, including low-impact exercises for beginners and older adults. That means even grandparents can get into the fitness act.
5. Workout in a Bag for Kids!
Another spinoff of a popular app for adults, Workout in a Bag for Kids! is a workout game especially designed for children.
The workouts have cute names like Snow Angles, Mummy Walks, Flamingos, and Spiderwalks.
Children can choose "buddy" characters such as Dude, Hula, and Swag to come along with them for workouts. The more that kids exercise, the more workout buddies--and medals--they can collect.
Like the adult app, Workout in a Bag for Kids! is iOS only. Players can connect to the iTunes library for uptempo motivational music. Each app is priced at $2.99.
6. C-Fit Yoga
Designed for ages 3 and up, C-Fit Yoga presents 10-minute videos that teach how to use yoga for fun, exercise, and relaxation.
Developed by teachers, the app shows how to do the sun salutation, lotus pose, eagle pose, and more. Vocabulary words are displayed on the screen to help children learn new words.
You might want to chime in by doing a few sun saluations yourself! This app is free, but it's available for iOS only.
7. Down Dog
Downloadable for either Android or iOS, Down Dog is a highly popular yoga app among adults, as well as among children old enough to read.
You can select the level of difficulty, pace and time of your workout. Progress from beginner to intermediate and advanced levels. Boredom just isn't going to happen, because the app will produce a new sequence of vinyasa yoga positions each time around, even if you do stick with the same workout parameters. Musical accompaniments are included, too. It's a free app offering optional in-app purchases.
That candy bar or bag of chips might taste good, but is it worth the calories? Your kids can find out about calorie counting at an early age by playing Eat-and-Move-o-Matic.
This fun yet educational app shows you graphically not just the amount of calories in the foods you eat but how much work you'll need to do just to burn off those calories. It's free. Unfortunately, though, it's available for iOS only.
Do you have teens or preteens who are playing sports at school? Fitivity is a huge family of 450 fitness apps for Android and iOS, with many apps honing in on training participants for specific team sports like basketball, soccer, volleyball, cheerleading, rugby, and competitive swimming.
You'll find apps in the suite, too, to get you in shape for dance, martial arts, and individual sports. Are you a weekend golfer or tennis player, for instance? Fitivity has you covered. The apps are free, with optional in-app purchases.
10. Maze Walk VR
It was only a matter of time before virtual reality and fitness apps met, started dating, and got married. And this elegantly designed VR game can get everyone in your family up and moving.
Designed for simple VR headsets like Google Cardboard, Maze Walk VR
This is a free, iOS-only app with optional in-app purchases; you get three coins to start, and you get more either by finding the hidden tokens at each level or by buying some coins in the shop.
You'll need an iPhone 5 or later, running at least iOS 8.
11. Max's Plate
Do your kids know about the five foods groups? This fun game can teach even very young children how to develop a well balanced diet.
To earn points, kids need to correctly place foods by food group on to a plate.
In a "My Plate" section, children can keep track of how many foods from each group they've eaten each day. Available for iOS only, it's a free app from snack manufacturer Max on Snax.
12. Run 5K
Do you know any adult or teenage coach potatoes who are contemplating taking up running? If so, you'll want to investigate the growing category of Android and iOS apps focused on getting you in shape to run a 5K (3.1 miles) race in just eight weeks.
Priced at $2.99, Felt Tip Inc.'s iOS-only Run 5K is one of the best of breed. It's highly customizable, with choices available for distance units, speed measurement, themes, voice coaching, and more. You can also opt to either disable or enable Apple Health, as well as GPS and heart rate monitoring.
The built-in voice cues tell you when to run and when to walk. You can hear those cues over music from streaming services such as Spotify. The app can also calculate calories burned and save that info to Apple Health. Warmup stretch activities are included, too, and the app is compatible with Apple Watch. You can share your workout data on both Facebook and Twitter.
If you're especially ambitious, there's an option to amp up your training all the way to 21K, if you want. The Runner's Bundle, priced at $8.99, includes three apps: Run 5K, Run 10K, and RunQuest 21K.
What if you're not an iOS family? Runtastic is another great workout app, and it operates on all three platforms (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone). And despite its name, this GPS-enabled app is suitable not just for running but also for cycling.
There are free versions of the app, which give you route mapping, a calendar for setting long-term goals, and social sharing. However, if you upgrade to the Pro edition for $4.99, you'll also receive weather info, heart-rate monitoring, interval monitoring, and the ability to auto-pause the tracking if you stop running or cycling for a while to chat with a friend--or to view the scenery.
14. Pooch to 5K
A run can be a lot more fun if you bring the family pet along. And running is good for your dog, too; according to Pooch to 5K, up to 40 percent of dogs are overweight, causing the same kinds of medical issues that paunchy people can get, such as joint pain and heart disease.
The Pooch to 5K site includes a PDF file specifying each workout session in a program aimed at getting you and your dog ready to run 5K in 12 weeks. The instructions tell you how much time you and your pet should spend on warming up, running, walking, and cooling down each time around. You can download the file and take it with you while on the road with your pet.
Even better, a company named Aegis has built a free Android app which is based on the same Pooch to 5K training program. Bells and whistles of the app include audio or vibration alerts between intervals and the ability to operate in background mode, so you can listen to music or use other apps while you and your pooch exercise.
15. Zombies, Run!
Once you and your teens are in the right kind of shape, it's time to progress to Zombies, Run! This is the perfect motivation (and distraction) for runners who enjoy zombie fare like The Walking Dead.
With each step you take in this running game, you move further ahead in escaping the zombies that are avidly pursuing you. Meanwhile, you can collect supplies to rebuild your town and save the world from the threat of apocalypse. Use your phone's headphones to tune in to any of more than 200 missions that will keep your heart thumping.
This otherwise free app isn't so suitable for younger kids, because the in-app purchases are so tempting and many. Hopefully, teens can do a better job of restraining their wallets. Zombies, Run! is downloadable for both Android and iOS.
16. Curly's Pocket Guide to Sports
So maybe your kids your kids are getting first-hand experience with running, cycling, and yoga, and possibly with some team sports like basketball soccer, and baseball or softball. There are tons of other sports on the planet, though, such as gymnastics, pole vaulting, and cricket, to name a few.
This app is a beautifully illustrated encyclopedia of 76 different sports, giving complete rules for each one. Your guide to the app, Curly, also offers competitive stragegies and surprising facts that your kids can share through social media. She answers intriguing questions such as "How many cups of tea can you fit in a swimming pool?" and "What happens if a pole vault snaps?"
The app is an ideal companion to Olympic sporting events and other big sporting competitions shown on TV, helping kids to get a grasp on what some of the world's best athletes are trying to accomplish. More importantly, though, this pocket guide might inspire your kids to take up new types of fun athletic endeavors. Canoeing, maybe? How about horseback riding? This app for iOS is free.
17. Smash Your Food
While apps like Max's Farm focus on foods that are nutritious, Smash Your Food takes the opposite approach. This iOS app encourages kids to smash junk foods into smithereens to see what's really inside.
Kids are presented with highly realistic-looking HD video images of popular foods like a hamburger, milk shake, and pizza and asked to guess the actual sugar, salt and oil content of each. They then hit the "smash" button to watch the food get smashed, with the bad stuff oozing out to the bottom. The app also gives the true answer to the question at hand. Based on their accuracy of their guesses, players receive points that can then be traded in for viewing more food items.
Kids ranging from around 8 to 18 will enjoy destroying the junk foods and hearing cool sound effects (glop! plink!) as these foods meet their well deserved demise. Kids will also pick up hard to forget impressions as to why some tasty foods should be consumed only sparingly, if at all. Offered for iOS only, the app is free.
18. Weight Loss for Kids and Teens by Kurbo
This is another fun app, but it has shown serious results in teaching healthy exercise and nutrition habits to teens and younger children who are trying to lose weight.
Kurbo offers games that let them earn points while learning about nutrition, along with weekly challenges to keep them on their toes. Kids can also track their own progress in an exercise and food diary, see their progress over time, and receive support from a team of experts through daily food tips and motivational lifts.
Available for Android and iOS, the app is free with optional in-app purchases. With a premium purchase, kids also get daily in-app messages and weekly Skype sessions with a trained professional coach, drawn from a pool of nutritionists, Olympic athletes, soccer players, and more.
19. MyNetDiary’s Calorie Counter and Food Diary
You do want to set a good example for your kids. If you'd like to lose weight, too, almost countless apps are out there for adults. MyNetDiary's Calorie Counter and Food Diary is an especially good one for busy but proactive parents, as well as for teens.
This easy-to-use app gives you a wealth of information, syncing with a number of other devices apps to keep track of your diet, exercise info and nutrient intake, all in one handy place. My NetDiary runs a huge nutrition database of 729,000 foods. You can track up to 45 different nutrients, such as calories, vitamins, and minerals. A barcode scanning feature is included for analyzing the foods you eat. The app suppies a number of different slick and simple charts, too.
It's also an automated diet and fitness coach, delivering tips to you based on the goals you've set. The company claims that, on average, users lose 1.4 pounds per week. It's available on Android, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and the Web. The app is free, but it offers optional in-app purchases.
20. Charity Miles: Walking and Running Distance Tracking
Helping out a worthy cause can be another big motivator to get up and move. While you and your kids are out there running (or even when you're walking around the house or the mall), you can also earn money for charitable donations.
Beyond tracking your distance, this free app for Android and iOS will donate money on your behalf for each mile you achieve. The funding comes from brand name sponsors like Humana, Johnson & Johnson, and Cobani.