From Harry Potter: Wizards to Pokemon Go – Here are 7 walking apps for people who hate fitness apps ad walking
If it were up to me, I would lie on the couch and play games all day – I have perfected what my husband calls the fine art of “smushing”.
“The problem with most fitness apps is that they’re too boring”
Alas, an office job and a penchant for pizza force me to move around for the sake of a pay cheque and what one might loosely term “health”, and this summer I figured I might as well download apps that would help me reach a daily target of 10,000 steps – the widely accepted standard if fitness trackers are anything to go by.
The problem with most pedometer or step-tracking fitness apps – Fitbit, Garmin, Google Fit, Samsung Health, Huawei Health, MyFitnessPal, etc – is that they can sometimes require linking to accessories that you don’t possess. And, more importantly, they’re too fitness-driven, too healthy, too perky. Too boring.
I have therefore spent hours on the couch researching and installing free fitness apps that are masquerading as games, and will get you moving – however reluctantly – for the sake of treasure, a new planet, actual money, or a unicorn.
Geocaching – for adventurers
This is not my favourite, primarily because it requires me to actually go places. Geocaching has been around for a while, but to those new to the scene, it’s essentially a treasure hunt for grown-ups.
“I’m tempted to take a taxi there, but that would defeat the purpose”
The app takes your phone’s GPS location and pulls up a map with dozens of real-life “caches” marked. These tend to be sealable boxes filled with “treasure” in the form of assorted knick-knacks, a logbook, and potentially a “travel bug” – an item with a trackable tag, which someone leaves behind with the hope that it will be carried around the city, or even the world, by “geocachers” or hitchhikers.
You choose one and begin your hunt; the map then shows you the distance and altitude difference.
You can also click in to see details, hints on where the cache is hidden (for security reasons, they’re not just lying out in the open), and even comments from people who have attempted to find the cache.
The whole thing is very civilised, and if you take a photo of your hard-won prize, there’s a spoiler alert for others who click on the “View Photo” button.
It’s a great concept for those who enjoy a hearty treasure hunt and like to feel part of a community, members of which may have located the same cache and perhaps left a note or prize for the next treasure hunter.
The problem for me is that I loathe hiking and sweat like a vegan in a steakhouse, and even the prospect of treasure won’t force me out into the heat and 99 per cent humidity.
I’m tempted to take a taxi there, but that would, of course, defeat the purpose.
Walkr – for beginners
Everything about this game is adorable. Essentially, the “energy” generated from your steps fuels a spaceship, on which you travel through space to discover new planets. These are often delicious worlds called Honeycomb or Caramel Apple, which does make me want to walk – in the direction of the nearest sweet store.
I have a genius Shiba Inu named Doggii, who calls me Captain and tells me about new worlds discovered. The gameplay is simple but fun – the planets generate resources and money but you have to feed them when they get “hungry”; in order to discover more planets, you need to walk more (bet you saw that coming).
You have regular missions to help space creatures, and for those who remember that this is actually about your fitness, the app has functions that record your weight and calculate calorie output.
StepBet: Walk, Get Active & Stay Fit – for gamblers
Closet gambler? This is the app for you. I have no qualms about telling you that this app stressed me the hell out.
The app begins by telling you to “put money on yourself”, which sounds like a cheery, positive affirmation, until you realise that it’s actually telling you to put money on yourself.
Technically, this is a free app to download, but the way to play is to pay. The game works by linking to whatever pedometer you use (watch or phone), accessing your step history and calculating “Active Days” (your average daily step count) and “Power Days” (you have to walk a hell of a lot more).
Then you join a game, which requires a buy-in of US$40. The competition generally lasts six weeks, and players get the first week off as a grace period (basically, you stay in the game even if you don’t meet your goals).
The final pot is split between those who “win” – by hitting four Active Days and two Power Days every week starting from Week 2. You get a day of rest each week (a “Free Day”), mainly because this game will do your head in.
There is a slight caveat – the game takes a service charge, which is subtracted from the final pot before the total is divided among the winners – however, the game guarantees that winners will at least get their US$40 back.
This app is ideal for those who like the idea of winning money while getting healthy, who need the incentive of a small financial investment, and who are committed to walking a lot and confident in their ability to do so consistently.
I made the mistake of joining right before a big month of meetings and late dinners in town, and it was some time around my third Uber home that week that I realised I wouldn’t make it.
Yeah, I lost my US$40.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite / Jurassic World Alive / Pokémon Go – for Potter fans or just very, very cool people
I put these three games together because they’re essentially the same thing. Pokémon Go was released first, in 2016, when the geeky half of the world became blind, stumbling, phone-flicking nuisances to the functioning individuals of society. Jurassic World Alive came out last year and it was much the same thing, but with cooler battles.
Then Wizards Unite launched this year, and the cooler core of that geeky half took notice.
The gameplay is similar across all there. It works through GPS location and optional augmented reality (AR) – after the app notes where you are and sets up the virtual aspects of the world around you, you’re meant to walk around and be rewarded by creatures or items you “catch” along the way. In Pokémon Go and Jurassic World Alive, it’s creatures you can train for battle; in Wizards Unite, it’s “confoundables” that you release from their spell and add to your collection.
For the sake of privacy, I won’t include the screenshot of the time when a unicorn materialised in my living room, but take my word for it that it looked amazing.
Given that I once got to the airport four hours before my flight just so I could wander around and catch creatures, the incentive to move is definitely there.
As much as it pains me to say it, while the Harry Potter game is beautifully constructed, from the visuals to the music to the Potterworld details, it does lack the battle gameplay element that makes the first two games so much fun. Nevertheless, this pesky detail won’t deter the most steadfast Potter fans.
I will walk 500 miles, and I will walk 500 more for my confoundable.
Note – This story was originally published on SCMP and has been republished on this website.