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Like many Oxford students, I find it hard to balance my academic work with keeping fit. Normally, I would go swimming and to Zumba, but since the UK lockdown started in March I haven’t been able to. Fortunately, in the last couple of months I’ve found a solution: a fitness app called FitOn.

FitOn is available on Android and iOS, so it works on most smartphones. It markets itself as free and, while there is a paid version (pro), for the last two months I’ve been using the free version and haven’t felt the need to go pro. Pro usually costs £64.99pa, but recently there’s been a 70% discount that puts the price at £18.49pa. Pro adds a lot of features, the main one of which are: downloading workouts to use offline, working out in video calls with friends, uploading your own playlists, accessing personalised meal plans, and integrating devices like Fitbits. I’m not likely to use these features and the cost of pro is too much for me, but if you are likely to use them then the cost would be less than membership at either Buzz Gym or PureGym.

So, what do you get on the free version? You get access to many, many workout videos made by professional trainers, each of whom specialises in a different kind of exercise like dance, yoga, or kickboxing. Each workout tells you its duration, intensity (on a scale of 1-3), equipment required, and targeted parts of your body to give you an idea if it’s what you’re looking for, and the trainers explain each exercise thoroughly so you don’t hurt yourself. The trainers lead the workouts with an extraordinary amount of enthusiasm, an enviable amount of ease and are somehow still motivating even though they’re just a recording.

You also get access to a fitness programme and meal plan, which are independent of each other so you can decide to use either or both. I use the fitness programme, which you can set to the goal of your choice such as losing weight or toning up. If you want to lose weight, then you’ll need to have scales handy to know if you actually are, although the fit of your clothes is also a handy guide. You receive recommended weekly workouts, but you can browse all of the available workouts and add them to your programme or favourites for a more personalised experience. One disadvantage of the programme is that if you want to change your programme you have to start over and lose the record of all of your workouts so far.  

If you want to challenge yourself, FitOn has ‘challenges’, which are sets of workouts that you have to complete over a set number of weeks. They range from monthly challenges whereby you have to complete ten workouts in a single month, to four-week challenges with workouts set by each trainer. The latter tend to be intense rather than easy, so, even though they’re a great incentive they are a big commitment of energy if you’re not that fit yet. If taking on FitOn’s challenges sounds daunting, then you can always start with its achievements. There are many, many achievements, from completing a minimum number of workouts per week to completing challenges to completing a certain number of a certain type of workout like Pilates or cardio.

I prefer dynamic workouts, so yoga isn’t really my cup of tea (although if it’s yours then there are plenty of workouts to choose from). I use the toning workouts by Jeanette Jenkins, the strength ones from a range of trainers, and have even started using the Pilates ones by Cassey Ho. What’s great is that with my phone, a wifi connection, and £5-£10 dumbbells from Amazon, I can do all of these workouts in the comfort of my own room. Given that we’re in the midst of a pandemic and I have social anxiety at the best of times, it’s a stress-free and liberating way for me to exercise for free and while maintaining social distancing.

So far, I’ve been using FitOn for nine weeks and am definitely more toned than I was. It certainly gives me no excuse to avoid exercise, and for someone who obsesses over their academic work in front of a laptop all day, it’s been very beneficial physically and mentally.