Step by Step: Walking Apps and Your Back

March 20, 2019

Female patient walking with support from her healthcare provider.
Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN

Walking is a simple and convenient way to get your daily activity: You can do it anytime, anywhere and you don't need a lot of extra equipment — just a good pair of walking shoes and appropriate clothing. With about 70 percent of U.S. adults not getting the recommended 150 minutes per week, or 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week, walking apps can come in handy to track your daily steps. Walking can keep your waistline, as well as blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, in check.

Can walking help back pain? If you take it slow and ease into it, walking can do wonders for your whole body — including your back. Be careful, since walking with an injury can make it worse, or walking too far on hilly or rocky terrain can cause lower back pain if you are not physically prepared.

If you are striving to get to the 10,000 step or 5 mile mark, using a tracking device is a smart way to achieve your walking goals. Keep in mind, you don't have to walk 10,000 steps a day to be healthy. Start small with 1,000 extra steps from your baseline activity and then slowly work your way up. All steps count, especially if you have a job where you sit most of the day. Try walking to a coworker's desk instead of sending an email, take a walk at lunch time and breaks throughout the day, park further from the office entrance or walk to and from work, if possible. Plus, it's easy to track your steps and set goals with a myriad of walking apps, smart pedometers and fitness trackers available at your fingertips today.

Let's look at some of the best walking apps out there.

Lose It!

You can track steps, plus how much you eat and drink throughout the day with the Lose It! app. Created for weight loss and management, Lose It! allows users to set goals for walking and other activities, as well as daily calorie and nutrient needs. You can start at your own pace with this app and work your way up. Can walking help back pain if you are trying to alleviate it? Movements like walking, which are low-impact can help keep blood circulating to the muscles and joints and build strength and stability. In the long-term this can help alleviate back pain. Lose It! conveniently connects to other fitness apps, such as Fitbit, to allow you to track your daily steps.

Fitbit

Fitbit, one of the most comprehensive mobile fitness tracking devices, has a free walking app too. As part of this app, there's a MobileRun feature that uses GPS to easily track all sorts of activity from walking to running to hiking. For those who are competitive with themselves, Fitbit allows you to compare your walks with individual stats and real-time updates, plus there's a calendar to keep track of the frequency of your walks. You can walk to music too, playing and switching songs from your iTunes playlist without leaving the Fitbit app — a great way to stay focused on your steps. It's worth the investment.

MyFitnessPal

Ranked as one of the top health apps and websites, MyFitnessPal is a user-friendly platform for logging daily steps, as well as food intake, to achieve weight loss and fitness goals. This popular app allows you to connect with a large fitness community for motivation, goal setting and inspiration. Plus, this app is compatible with a myriad of other mobile devices and apps to enable users to easily synchronize their data to analyze while on-the-go.

Walk for Money

It pays to walk, not only for your health, but your wallet too. There are a number of walking apps that will give you money in return for your steps.

Walgreens Connect app allows you to link to a mobile fitness device like Fitbit or the MyFitnessPal app to register your steps with their Balance Rewards program. In the process, you can earn 20 points for every mile you walk and up to 1,000 points per month. For every 5,000 points you earn, you get $5 coupon to put toward your Walgreen's purchases. It pays to walk.

Wouldn't it be great to walk and earn money to pay for your medical expenses? Good news, there are walking apps that do just that, such as the United Healthcare Motion app. United Healthcare members can sign up and access this app on their desktop or smartphone to track their steps, view goal setting trackers and maps to reaching 10,000 steps a day. Through United Healthcare Motion's FIT goals to walk with frequency, intensity and tenacity, this program incentivizes users to reach their daily walking goals to improve their overall health over time.

You can help raise money for charitable organizations with walking apps too. Charity Miles is a free app that allows you to track your steps, as well as other daily activities, and earn money for the charity of your choice. Every mile you walk earns money for your charity from corporate sponsors or your friends can sponsor you too. This app is available for Apple and Android devices.

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