If you haven’t exercised for a long time, it can be incredibly daunting to – literally – get up and running. Not everyone wants to or has the money to shell out on a personal trainer or gym membership, so how do you know if you’re doing the right exercises for you, overdoing it or simply not doing enough.

Luckily if you are a smartphone owner, you’ll find a lot of information is available for free, via the huge range of fitness apps available.

From week-by-week marathon training to helping you towards the recommended 10,000 steps a day and a food diary, there are apps for all abilities.

Many apps provide audio coaching via headphones to help you along, while others sync with fitness trackers.

Some fitness apps use your phone’s Location Services to track your activity, while some continually run in the background, so make sure you keep an eye on your battery life if you’re on a long run.

If you think you might enjoy running, but you’ve never tried it, try and app like Couch to 5k, which gradually builds up to the distance of your training runs. If you simply want to calculate how far you cycle each day, try Runkeeper. If you use an app and don’t like it, just delete it and try something else.

If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are four of our favourite free fitness apps, so you can get a taste of the features they offer.

1: Moves

Moves app

Free: Android, iOS

Moves is a pedometer app that tracks physical activity, automatically detecting whether you are running, cycling or walking.

It calculates the distance, duration and calories burned.

GPS tracks your movement, showing locations and times on a map.

Moves runs in the background, so as long as your Location Services are on you don’t have to do anything, making it a simple way to track fitness.

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2: Change4Life Couch to 5k

Couch to 5k

Free: Android

Running is a great way to get fit and avoid costly gym membership.

Change4Life Couch to 5k, developed with NHS Choices, is designed for complete beginners - it’s a nine-week program that helps you gradually build you up to 5 kilometres, alternating between running and walking.

Virtual trainer Laura tells you when to walk and run, while a countdown timer shows how much time you have remaining.

Week one is unlocked and the rest of the plan Is free when you sign up to Change4Life.

 

3: Runkeeper

Runkeeper app

Free: Android, iOS

Runkeeper helps improve fitness by tracking a host of activities, including running, cycling, walking and even skating.

Hit ‘Start’ and the app uses your phone’s GPS to track each activity including distance travelled, calories burned and location.

As you exercise you get real-time audio updates informing you of your progress.

What we like about Runkeeper is that it works for all fitness levels – you can set your own goals or follow professionally-designed training plans from a beginner’s 5k to a marathon.

[Related article: Fitness trackers explained]

4: Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal

Calorie Counter % Diet Tracker app

Free: Android, iOS

Improving your health isn’t only about exercising - it’s just as important to watch what you eat.

Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker is a food diary. Enter your fitness goals and it will tell you how many calories you need to burn to reach your target.

Add what you eat and it calculates how many calories you have consumed, using a huge database of 5 million foods.

As well as helping you monitor your meals, Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker syncs with other fitness apps, giving you a full overview of your progress.

Check out the video below to see the apps in action.

Do you use any fitness apps? Let us know in the Comments box below.