How to get fit with your smartphone in less than 20 minutes a day

Tame the tummy in double quick time with the most effective workout apps

It’s raining.’ ‘It’s cold.’ ‘The duvet is too heavy.’ ‘I’ve got to be at work early.’ ‘I must stay late at the office.’ ‘I’d rather have a drink…’ 

Any of these gym-avoiding excuses sound familiar? Well, thanks to a combination of smartphone convenience and the latest sports science, you can skip paying a fortune to workout somewhere and get the same results in your own home.

Research shows you can achieve more progress in a mere 15 minutes of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) - done three times a week – than hitting the treadmill for an hour. 

Fitness brands have been quick to capitalise on this and there are now hundreds of apps promising to kick you into shape in just a few minutes a day  without expensive equipment…well, apart from your smartphone, but you’ll probably have that anyway.

We’ve tried out with a wide range of these and come up with a list that offers a great mix of easy access and positive results, and for far less than it would cost to have a screaming personal trainer whip you into shape.

1. Nike+ Training Club 

Free: iOS, Android

This ridiculously comprehensive and stylish offering from Nike boasts 100+ workouts covering endurance, mobility and strength with a host of both swift, 15 minute workouts and longer endurance sessions on offer.

AirPlay and AppleTV support (along with Chromecast mirroring) will display the instructions on a larger screen or speaker system, plus a whole bunch of famous people (including Rory McIlroy, Ellie Goulding and Serena Williams) getting sweaty alongside as ‘motivation’.

An added bonus exists if you use the Nike+ Run Club app, as all your jogging efforts will be automatically synchronised to your Nike profile too, giving a complete picture of your fitness.

2. Freeletics

Free (Coaching from £2.28 ($2.69 / around AU$4) per week): iOS, Android 

This comprehensive personal training programme is based around four free platforms – Gym, Bodyweight Workouts and Training, Running and Nutrition – which together offer up a host of workouts centred around HIIT.

You’ll use bodyweight moves such as burpees, sprawls, jump squats, pull-ups and sprints that you must complete as quickly as possible, weekly nutrition plans help maintain your fitness between workouts and a superb premium coaching service is available when you need an extra boost.

3. Sworkit

Free (£3.98, ($4.99 / around AU$7) per month): iOS, Android

Tell Sworkit the type of workout you’re looking for (strength, cardio, yoga, or stretching) and the amount of time you’ve got to do it (anywhere from five minutes to an hour), and the app delivers moves to follow during your sweat session.

Choose to upgrade and the app will enable you to customise your workouts by setting the number of reps and the areas of the body you want to focus on.

It’s a simple system that offers great workouts for those already armed with knowledge of the areas they want to target.

4. Adrian James Bootcamp


£2.29 (around $3 / AU$4): iOS

Adrian James proudly boasts that his bootcamp is the toughest 15-minute workout on the planet. 

Yeah, it’s one of those apps, just like the Insanity DVD infomercials you’ve woken up to on the sofa (although we’ve completed that plan, and it does actually work - unlike most things that are advertised late at night).

No equipment needed, lots of how-to videos, points grading, motivation and plenty of exercises that are suitable for beginners too... but do expect to sweat and ache.

There’s also companion Six Pack and High Intensity apps for the same price, should you feel the need to punish yourself further at the end of the 'basic' Bootcamp.

5. Daily Burn

Free (In-app purchases from £7.99 ($10, around AU$13.50)): iOS, Android

Daily Burn is like your own private YouTube fitness channel, offering 500 workout videos taught by expert trainers, lasting from 15 minutes to an hour.

Your money gives you the power to pick and choose just what’s right for your workout, and if you can ever conceive of getting bored with what's on offer, more videos are added regularly.

There are also 20 different programs – from high-intensity cardio to yoga – and each workout can be streamed to Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod, laptop or desktop…so you’ll have no excuses for not being able to access the right session at the right time.

It does seem a little expensive, but with the range of options and ways to stream the content it’s perfect for those committed to getting in shape.

6. Daily Yoga

Free (with in app purchases): iOS, Android

Fitness isn’t just about squat-thrusts and burpees, and this app explores alternative ways to stay fit by packing in high definition video as an ideal introduction to the ways of the Yogis.

All the routines are under 30 minutes and there are 50 classes available – the Yoga for Runners is particularly recommended if you’re a jogger and getting worryingly stiff – and each session is categorised according to the body part you want to focus on.

7. Seven

Free (£3.99 ($3.53 / around AU$7) per month for premium): iOS, Android

Treating fitness like a classic (but basic) video game, Seven sets you the challenge of working out for seven minutes a day for seven months using no more than a chair, wall and your own body weight.

You start with three lives but missing one day will lose one of them (shown as a heart, rather menacingly) and missing three in a month will reset your progress to zero.

If you stick to it you’ll see results, but it’s worth paying the extra per month for the premium workouts to avoid the monotony of the free routines.

8. Workout Trainer

Free (pro version £5.58, $6.99 (around AU$10)/month): Android, iOS (Apple Watch and Android Wear compatible)

With a dizzying selection of over 1000 intense workouts ranging in length from five to 15 minutes, each with step-by-step audio and video instructions, if there’s nothing in Workout Trainer to tempt you from the sofa you’re in serious trouble.

As well as the standard workouts, you can build your own custom routines and share them online, as well as trying out some of the community-created routines yourself.

A Pro subscription gives a big upgrade in features, such as advert-free HD workout videos and even more routines to torture your screaming muscles with.

9. Fitivity Pilates Exercise Workouts

Free (pro version costs £3.99 ($5, around AU$7)): iOS, Android

Pilates is all about strengthening the core – specifically the back, abdomen and hips. Ask any fitness pro and no matter what level of fitness you are, they’ll harp on endlessly about the importance of this area for back strength, balance, posture, strength and flexibility.

While not offering everything you could want – few Pilates apps are perfect, we've found – Fitivity offers all the instructions you need to start training your core, with simple-to-follow routines.

Do it for the three free weeks and, if you want more, the pro version will give you unfettered access when you pay up.

10. Pact

Free: iOS, Android

Tried all the above but still can’t seem to find 15 minutes to work up a tiny sweat? Does money motivate you more than the idea of a healthy heart and a six-pack?

If so, you need Pact, the first app that encourages you to gamble on your ability to get fit.

Wager how many days you reckon you can work out, put some money where your mouth is and get running.

It pairs with your phone’s GPS as well as with RunKeeper, Fitbit, Jawbone Up and MapMyRun and the more you stick to your programme the more cash you can win from competing lazy members.

This article is brought to you in association with Tesco Mobile