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What it Takes to Make a Custom Fitness App: 2022 Complete Guide

March 31, 2020

It is an excellent time to make a custom fitness app. The growing adoption of smart devices and wearables is leading to the expansion of the global fitness app market. 



According to current statistics, people spend over 5 hours a day with their favorite mobile applications. Also, people have become increasingly interested in exercising, proper nutrition, and staying healthy while maintaining their lifestyles and busy schedules.


Recently, Amazon announced a new wearable named Halo View meant to help users become fitter during the COVID-19 pandemic remote course of life. 


Apple has released an update for their Fitness+ services to assist people in getting fit even if they are away from a gym. Apple Fitness+ services have also become available for 15 new countries. 


As you can see, even such giants as Amazon and Apple are supporting the fitness trend.


According to Statista, the number of fitness application users is expected to reach 987 million by 2024. While there are many competitor apps aimed at different aspects of everyday life, this niche remains full of potential.


A report published by Grand View Research states that the fitness app market was valued at $4.4 billion in 2020. The market is anticipated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.4% from 2021 to 2028.

In this article, you can find valuable tips on why and how to create a fitness app, the cost of such a project, challenges that may occur, and insights from Onix’s experience with health and fitness app development.


Why Make a Custom Fitness App?

As you can see from the market statistics, the demand for fitness apps is real. People are actively looking for tips and guidance and prefer to use a mobile version when it comes to consuming services. 


How to make a fitness app that puts you ahead of your competition? 


The key is to resolve the chokepoints people encounter during their fitness journey.


Here is a list of some typical challenges people face when it comes to fitness and how a tailored solution can help to overcome them: 


#1. Lack of time and motivation

Busy schedules and household chores are not only killjoys, but they also consume a lot of time. Making time for exercising can become a reason to quit exercising entirely. At the same time, a fitness app can help people form a new healthy habit step by step.


#2. Fitness is in everything

People may assume that strenuous exercising is the best fitness activity. But riding a bike or even walking around the block counts, too. To remind them about these other opportunities, an app can have trackers for many activities with an option to turn on notifications to keep these activities regular.


#3. Inability to see the progress

People might quit exercising because they see little progress in their efforts. Your app can provide them with game-like functionality that will keep them aware of their milestones and motivated.


#4. Gym affordability

Some people lack motivation and time but also a budget to spare on the gym. An app can provide them with a cost-effective plan.


#5. Coach-on-demand

Not everyone can afford a personal trainer, but an ‘on demand’ option to help with some of the biggest questions in an app (through text, audio, or video chat) can be a game-changer for both your users and your app’s popularity.


6 Steps to Create a Fitness App

 The most recommended approach to getting new ideas to the market is building an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). It has core features, good UI/UX, and a simple design just enough to demonstrate the idea behind the product, evaluate it, and collect users’ feedback.



Fitness application developers will follow the same steps as with any mobile application:


Step 1: Research and ideation

The fitness app market is currently segmented into three categories.


According to the Global Fitness App Market research report (2020), the activity tracking segment will continue its steady growth. 


Within each type, fitness apps can be developed for different population groups and levels of fitness. 


You may also design an app for a particular goal, like preparing for a marathon or recovering after an injury. 


There was no equivalent on the market when Onix built the LiftSync mobile app, which targeted university, college, and school teams instead of individual athletes. Read further to find out more about that project.

Develop your unique value proposition, research your prospects with Apple vs. Android users, and study the target audience to meet their needs. 


For instance, while designing a fitness app named Happy Freelancer, our team had to investigate freelancers’ daily health concerns: eye strain, pain in the back and wrists, gaining weight, lack of energy, etc. We’ll discuss that project further.

It’s helpful to study the industry leaders and your niche rivals regarding the most valuable UX/UI and design fitness app features. The research will also supply ideas on how to monetize an application of your type.


Step 2: The features of your fitness app

The app’s features fall into three groups:


  • Essential/must-have fitness features.
  • Desired features, mainly depending on the specific app type.
  • Features that may give your product a competitive advantage.


Generally, the features of a fitness application are as follows:


  • Onboarding pages.

To guide your users through the functionality and features of the app to help ensure users won’t become confused however intuitive and user-friendly the overall UI/UX design is. Onboarding also requires a unique approach for design and should be welcoming and as simple as possible.


  • Gamification.

Game mechanics found their way into various non-gaming apps, and fitness apps are no exception. Gamification integrated into fitness apps can help users overcome laziness and other challenges in their fitness journey.


  • Visual tutorials.

Visual tutorials, including videos or animation, are vital for fitness apps as some exercises may bring more harm than good if done incorrectly. Additionally, it may motivate users when seeing another person perform a strenuous exercise with confidence. Read Also: How to Implement AR in a Fitness App


  • Functionalities for activity monitoring.

When integrated with a mobile device’s sensors and wearables, the application may monitor physical or other user activities (sleep patterns, etc.).  This is essential for accurate data recording and progress tracking for exercise and activity tracking apps. Apple’s HealthKit and Google Fit API facilitate access to the health and fitness data collected on the iOS and Android platforms, respectively. Geolocation and mapping are required to count kilometers/distance user runs, walks, or cycles and visualize covered/training routes.


  • Goals and progress tracking.

Whether your app tracks miles/kilometers run, exercises completed, calories burned, or any other parameters, all statistics should be easily accessible in an understandable format. For example, LiftSync accompanied by fitness wristbands allows comparing the progress of a whole team, individual members, and groups within a team. The users should be able to analyze results by weeks, months, years, or within a custom time range.


  • In-App community.

To build a fitness app and a community around your fitness app, you can add community feeds where users can follow other users, fitness influencers, or trainers, share their results, join groups, find friends, or post updates. An in-app community feature will add more value to your app.


  • User profile. 

The personal account may contain information about their age, weight, height, goals, preferences, etc. This info may also help your application offer the most relevant workout routines, diet plans, goods, and other services.


  • Payment screen (optional).

This is suitable for apps that have adopted Freemium or Subscription-based business models. 

These screens can be added to the onboarding canvas to introduce users to updating their experience and achieving better results faster.


  • Social media integration.

Integrating social networks helps users register and log in faster and promotes social sharing, e.g., posting advice and achievements on Facebook. App users may also invite and challenge their friends, increasing customer engagement and spreading the word about your brand.


  • Push notifications and pop-ups.

An application can send reminders of scheduled workouts or other notifications to keep users organized and continuously encourage them towards their goals. It can also display information or motivating pop-ups, e.g., ‘You have done better than 80% of our app users!’


  • Application settings.

Beyond reading your app’s Terms and Conditions, users can define units, select the language, manage privacy settings, and more.


The desired features, besides the ones listed for the different fitness application types, may include:


  • The educational content on fitness, health, nutrition, etc.
  • Labels scanner for app users to easily research nutritional information about various foods
  • Healthy recipes and a calorie calculator.

Unique social features, gamification, live video streaming, or even dating functionality may help your mobile fitness application stand out from the crowd. 


For example, people enjoy sharing their triumphs with other users. Your app may become a new Instagram or TikTok ‘star’ with users and dedicated followers. New vegans might appreciate the ability to order recommended foods right from the app. Kids may be motivated to explore treasure quests, follow cute animals, or compete against characters supplied by augmented reality.


When prioritizing application features, consider timeframe or budget limitations as well. 


For example, building a gym fitness app would be more challenging due to the necessity to integrate with wearables and devices at the gym. Pre-recorded video tutorials may involve costly coordination with outside professionals. Compared to other content formats, these may consume more resources during content preparation, infrastructure building, testing, and subsequent content management.


The technical documentation should describe all selected features. Technical product specifications include usage, platforms, and all other information mobile fitness app developers require. A defined scope of work will help you develop the project roadmap, plan resources, and secure a budget


Plan and begin content development as early as possible. After thorough research, you will assemble a great deal of text, audio, or video content, quality copy (possibly in several languages), photography, etc.


Once you have determined the product’s purpose, contents, and working principle, it’s time to think about fitness app monetization.


Step 3: Selection of the monetization method

Suppose you are developing a fitness app as a supplement or bonus to increase the value of sports equipment, clothing, shoes, nutrition, or membership in a gym chain. In this case, it’s perfectly fine to offer the application for free and pass on any monetization efforts. If you are interested in making a profit with it, multiple options are available.


Ads-based model

In-app advertising seems like the lesser of evils to many users, but it may be better when relevant goods or services are promoted, complementing your app users’ experiences


Along with receiving these commission fees, application publishers can benefit from valuable lead generation. Mobile apps can capture the contact information of app users interested in specific services or products. Sports clothing manufacturers or other interested companies can reward application owners for supplying this information.


In-app purchases

Many in-app purchases can be provided within a customized fitness app: more workouts, celebrities’ tutorials, healthy diet recipes, additional application functionalities, and more. 


You can also enable app users to purchase physical items directly from the app, e.g., sports equipment or foods. Health/fitness service providers can integrate in-app billing.


Freemium model

This model allows consumers to ‘try before you buy.’ They download a free version of the application with a limited set of basic features. They can pay for the premium feature set if they like it and want more, e.g., advanced fitness plans, more features, or remove ads. It’s a matter of carefully choosing which application features to provide free of charge and which ones to put into the paid set. The minimum free features should give users a taste of what your app can do, and premium features should complete the experience while being worth their money.


Sponsors and partnerships

This fitness app business model implies partnering with sports brands, gyms, experts, celebrities, etc. For example, fitness instructors and influencers can create valuable content and distribute it through your fitness app. If your partners endorse your app, there’s a solid chance their followers might download it.


Partnership with a big brand is a winning card in monetizing your mobile app, especially if you forge an integrated app experience.


These are only a few possible ways of monetizing your mobile app. Be creative and search for opportunities that may be unique to your product. For example, imagine your app enables users to design their workout routines, nutrition plans, or healthy eating challenges. You can arrange for the user-created content to be shareable with other users within the application for free or for a fee. If an app user earns money this way, your application will charge a percentage.


Step 4: UX and UI design.

 Market analysis and documented project requirements provide the basis for UX/UI designers to develop a user flow map, a clickable prototype, and a visual design of your mobile app.


Depending on the target audience’s needs, you may opt for minimalism or an inspirational design with flashy colors, images, and animations. Regardless, users should be able to perceive information easily and complete the tasks quickly. Use color coding and select the typeface to reduce the time needed to process information.


Step 5: Mobile app development

 To turn your ideas into a working prototype, you will need at least two fitness app developers: an iOS or Android mobile application developer and a back-end developer. If you are developing your product for both platforms, you will need three developers. There will also be a project manager and quality assurance (QA) staff.


Several factors are essential when selecting your mobile fitness app developers:

  • the developers’ expertise and years of experience
  • experience in developing similar apps
  • their hourly rates, which can vary dramatically depending on the geographical location
  • the team’s cooperation practices and project management tools in place


Quality assurance takes up to 1/3 of the development time. Besides checking the code for bugs, QA engineers test whether all the features work correctly and evaluate the overall user experience.


Step 6: App launch, evaluation, and improvement

 Once your application is up and running, you can start monitoring the user base, set the key performance indicators, monitor the results, analyze the app performance, garner user feedback, and more. All of this information will help you understand whether the chosen app structure and monetization method are working the way you expected and make appropriate adjustments.


You will also need to update your application regularly. Always make sure there’s something irresistible that can keep your most consistent customers coming back for more. They should never feel like they’ve already used the app to its full potential. For example, a constant stream of new original content can convert new users into lifelong paying customers. Develop the features to entice the most enthusiastic users to spend as much money as necessary to advance in-app.


Motivate Your Users Through Your Fitness App Design

Design is yet another imperative element of your mobile fitness app. If users won’t like how it looks and feels initially, there is little chance they will continue to use it. 


The app’s structure should be straightforward, navigation intuitive, textual content and controls minimized, and the interface clean yet motivating. Each button should be easily accessible on devices with different screen sizes so that users can navigate through the application at the touch of one thumb while exercising. Allow exercises in a workout routine to switch automatically, but enable swiping too.


Go through every step of the process with no rush: from visualizing and wireframes to an interactive prototype. The prototype will help you see if the final design is uncluttered as it might distract users’ attention and experience, leaving them confused. Besides, the prototype can be checked on various devices with various screen resolutions.

At this stage, your app development backlog is divided into sprints, usually around two weeks each. The task of a project manager here is to prioritize tasks, monitor their progress, and update the backlog.


The five basic design principles that are helpful when creating a fitness app with its future users in mind are:


  • Bandwidth;
  • Battery consumption;
  • Clear usability;
  • Uncluttered buttons and CTAs;
  • User goals and expectations.


Fitness App Development Cost: What to Expect 

The question of how to develop a fitness app can’t be answered without discussing the cost of software development. To get to a solid base, it is crucial to determine your needs and requirements as clearly as possible (that’s why we did not discuss this question at the beginning of this article).


*Note that the table above shows some rough estimates by average Eastern European rate, covering both Android and iOS platforms. The type and complexity of an app will directly impact the development cost so that the total amount will differ. 


Aside from development stages and their costs, the following factors will significantly influence the final product cost:


  • Web platform development if you haven’t one yet - so your staff can manage and update the app 
  • Chosen functionality and its complexity 
  • Number of features 
  • Chosen tech stack 
  • Scope of work 
  • Experience of the chosen fitness application development company 
  • Team composition and its development practices 
  • Process consistency 
  • Team location 


Challenges To Watch Out For While Building A Fitness Application

Like any other software development process, fitness app development can be very challenging, especially if these apps work with lots of user-generated data. Here’s a list of the most typical challenges:


  • UX that clutters users’ ability to input data. The more time users spend separating the wheat from the chaff, the less they like using the app.
  • Services that bring no value to your target audience. You may learn what is helpful to your users and what is not by collecting and analyzing their feedback.
  • Unfinished wireframes. Trying to patch up elements of the app on the go can result in poor quality of the final product.
  • Troubles with running on different platforms or rendering. Response design, alternative layouts, and deploying an application in independent packages can help save the day.
  • Onboarding. Great onboarding lowers abandonment rates and strengthens user retention and user lifetime value.
  • Forgetting to budget for contingencies. Keeping a slight margin over the estimated costs can be a lifesaver if unexpected expenditures arise.


Onix Experience with Fitness App Development

Having a reliable app development provider can make a huge difference in a product’s success. Onix has over 20 years of software development experience, fitness including custom mobile app development for Android and iOS and wearables. 


Our experts provide a broad range of development services from A to Z for startups, small and medium-sized businesses worldwide. We can execute your fitness app project according to approved requirements and within your budget. Onix can also assist with leveraging the most suitable, up-to-date technologies as the changing market or your business objectives may demand.


Check our experience in fitness mobile application development


  • Healthy Freelancer is an application that Onix made, which illustrates user-friendly and intuitive fitness app design. Its well-thought-out UX design makes the user experience feel uninterrupted and complete. Onix created the app for people who work from home, have a sedentary lifestyle, and often forget or neglect healthy habits and exercise.


  • LiftSync's uniqueness in the crowded market of fitness apps lies in the fact that it targets teams as a whole. It is a project made literally from scratch since the client had only a basic idea when our collaboration began. There are two versions of the app: for staff and athletes. Both support full metrics for teams and individual athletes, which allows for following their progress. Among the critical features of LiftSync are workout metrics analytics, workout management, and a social component that can broadcast messages to teams or groups.


Summing Up

Physical fitness, health, and lifestyle awareness is a growing trend, and mobile applications that deliver fitness- and health-related services to users are increasingly popular. Fitness apps may help users lose weight, embrace healthy habits, reach individual nutrition goals, maintain better physical and emotional health, and more.

Increasing consumer awareness combined with technology advances and growing demand from emerging economies provides numerous growth opportunities in the global industry of fitness applications in the coming years. Now is a perfect time to build your own fitness app and claim your share of the market.


Starting with a mobile app MVP helps save money and test the idea without spending too much effort and resources. Onix is here to help you make the most of your idea.




What are fitness apps?

Fitness apps are a type of software that is used on mobile devices. Their functionality revolves around the idea of getting fit, e.g., with exercises or other types of physical training, nutrition, or diet. It can be an exercise planner or a calorie counter, or even both at the same time. Typically, fitness apps are viewed as a part of a larger category of apps, namely, mobile health apps or mHealth apps.


Typical fitness apps use include, but are not limited to:


  • Getting information about health issues (e.g., WebMD);
  • Learning new exercises to get fit (e.g., Fitness Buddy);
  • Learning about nutrition and diet (e.g., Fooducate);
  • Keeping track of nutrition and/or diet (e.g., Calorie Counter);
  • Developing running skills (e.g., Nike Run Club);
  • Getting information about sexual performance and activities (e.g., iKamasutra Lite).


How do fitness apps work?

At the heart of most fitness apps lies tracking functionality. It collects various data about users’ activity. This data can be input by users manually or collected through multiple sensors or wearables. The application analyzes data to provide an overall reading (the more sensors = the more data = the more accurate the readings are).


Let’s take a simple activity tracking app that connects to a smartwatch as an example:


  • The active sensors in a device are tracking the body’s kinetic energy, e.g., physical movements. 
  • The data gathered by sensors is transferred from a device to the fitness app via Bluetooth or other wireless data transmission technology. 
  • The data is then calculated and compiled, which helps gauge the actual results and provides a user with recommendations on further activities.


What makes a fitness application viral?

To become viral, an application should provide its core functionality flawlessly. This includes appropriately implementing all user features, UI, functioning, interaction with other apps and devices, and interaction with users. If anything from this list is not quite right, the chances of an application becoming viral decrease.


What unique features can a fitness app have?

The level of competition in the fitness application market is considerable, so including something special can add to a successful promotion strategy. Here are some features to ponder:


  • Personalization is everything 
  • Multi-device synchronization 
  • Geolocation 
  • Music apps integration 
  • Push notifications 


Different types of fitness apps can have various unique features. For example, with women’s fitness app development, it is possible to add features that modify the exercise or nutrition plan according to their cycle.


What annoys fitness apps users?

Most of the annoyance related to fitness apps falls within improper usability and user experience; namely, users are often annoyed with:


  • Lack of automation 
  • Battery discharge 
  • Lack of in-app community and social features 
  • GPS errors 
  • Monotonous gamification 


How do fitness apps make money

Fitness app revenue generally comes from the same business models that apply to other apps and range from in-app ads to merchandising.

Written by:
Serhii  Kholin

Serhii Kholin

COO at Onix-Systems

Effective product development. Aligning an organization's technologies to the needs of the business.

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Anastasiia Bitkina

Anastasiia Bitkina

Content Manager