IMG_0130Exercise is an important aspect of good health. Many people, however, give up exercise after it becomes routine or boring.

I use a stationary bike in the winter and after about the fifth or sixth ride get tired of staring at the wall in front of me. I’ve tried watching TV, reading, or listening to music while working out, but the desire to be biking outside is always present. And when it comes to patients with diabetes, heart disease, or weight issues, finding ways to make exercise more engaging and durable is a daily challenge of many physicians.

BitGym is an amazing app that makes stationary exercise much more exciting. The app is the product of a Kickstarter campaign by Active Theory Inc. The point of the app is to use your iPad or iPhone to immerse yourself in a first-person view of running or cycling through some distant landscape.

The app uses the camera feature in the mobile device to track your movement. For example, on the bike, the app tracks your shoulders moving back and forth to estimate your revolutions per minute. I use a computer on my bike and the app algorithm is surprisingly accurate–within about 10 revolutions per minute. This app has a free trial version that is definitely worth checking out for anyone that uses stationary equipment for their workouts.

User Interface

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The mobile app opens requiring a quick account setup. After that, the user has the option to choose between one of three workout types: trail, mix, or road.

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Selecting one of these options takes you to a panel of scenic landscapes. They have accumulated several great locations from around the world.

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Selecting a location takes you to a description of the workout. This also allows you the opportunity to download the ride for viewing later–this is especially useful if you do not have a good internet connection.

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The app then starts at your selected location. All of the rides are in high-definition and are presented in beautiful resolution on the retina display. As you start to pedal or run, the app calculates your estimated speed and begins moving the landscape in a similar fashion. The camera is very good at determining when you slow down or come to a stop. The scene on your screen follows this motion and provides good motivation for you to keep moving. You’ll quickly find that you are leaning slightly into turns or increasing the gear during climbs.

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There are several features you can turn on or off to enhance your ride. The app provides “Trail Facts” that provide information about the location in which you are traveling during the workout. You can also set the “Time and Speed” function and use “Video Overlays” during your workout. The “Nature sounds” are a great option for really immersing yourself in the environment. You’ll hear birds chirping in the woods, cars going by on the road, dogs barking in the city, people talking on park benches, and much more. Finally, you can also pause the ride, or control your own music on your device through the app.

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The “Trail Facts” are presented as floating bubbles in the distance during your ride. As you ride through them, they pop-up with interesting facts about your trip. This makes the workout educational and engaging. There are similar “portals” throughout the app that transport you through portions of the ride that work in a similar fashion.

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The features in this app are so immersive, I almost felt the urge to wave at some of these rugby fans while riding through New Zealand during the Rugby Sevens tournament.

  • Price
    • Free for trial. $7.99/month subscription.
    • Beautiful high-definition locations.
    • Multiple features make the app immersive and realistic
    • Great speed tracking function
    • Diverse set of locations
    • Interesting and informative “Trail Facts”
  • Dislikes
    • It would be interesting and more engaging to have more trail facts.
    • A Bird’s-eye map function would be nice to see where you are traveling with respect to the given location.
    • The portals can sometimes be annoying as they transport you to another location too soon or just as you are starting to make progress in your current location.
  • Overall

    This app does an excellent job immersing you in unique areas around the world and can offer many athletes a benefit to adding variety to their workouts. For patients who are having trouble sticking to a walking or jogging program, it can be fun way to mix things up for a while. 

  • Overall Score
  • User Interface

    Very easy app to use.

  • Multimedia Usage

    Excellent use of multimedia with high-definition locations throughout the app.

  • Price

    The app is free for a short trial, but then has a rather expensive monthly fee.

  • Real World Applicability

    This app can be extremely useful to certain athletes.

  • Device Used For Review

    iPhone 5 and iPad 2