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Everything you need to know about health & wellness apps: Essential features and best practices

The number of users installing health and fitness apps increased 27% in 2020, with the total number of active users expected to stay above 84 million through 2022. This increase in popularity goes beyond fitness apps: wellness app Calm, which is designed to help users meditate and sleep, was downloaded over 60 million times in 2020 – an increase of 20 million since 2019. When developing and marketing your own wellness app, it is important to know which features benefit users and how to keep users engaged. This keeps users retained for longer, prolonging lifetime value (LTV), while also helping them push towards their personal targets. This article shares everything you need to know about health and wellness apps, from essential features per app type and best practices.

Health and wellness apps during the COVID-19 pandemic

It is impossible to discuss the state of the health and fitness app market without identifying the huge impact COVID-19 has had on user behavior. Worldwide, health and wellness apps have increased in popularity since the COVID-19 outbreak. While the pandemic led to a 25% increase in health app downloads, this figure increases significantly for mental health apps – showing a download increase of 200%. Medical apps also saw a spike in downloads all over the world: in South Korea, medical app downloads increased by 135%, followed by India (90%), and Spain (65%). The worldwide average increase in downloads is also 65%.

According to Adjust data, the increase in popularity for health and fitness apps isn’t a short-term trend caused by the lockdown. We recorded a year-on-year increase in sessions of 61% in July, even though users were able to return to their gyms. Gympass, the world’s largest corporate wellness benefits program, also found that 82.8% of Americans are willing to work out virtually post-pandemic. Gympass is a great example of a health and wellness company that adapted to the coronavirus pandemic. To help users stay fit and healthy at home, Gympass quickly implemented digital solutions such as on-demand training sessions and live-streaming classes.

6 types of health and wellness apps

There are several different types of health and wellness apps — some of which may also fall under the lifestyle app category . Here are six categories and what they offer users.

  1. Sports and fitness apps: These apps typically offer tracking solutions and performance analytics so users can set targets and work towards them over time. There are many sports and fitness apps affiliated with popular sports brands - for example, Nike offers fitness apps such as Nike Run Club and Nike Training Club.
  2. Diet and nutrition apps: These are apps focused on providing users with nutritional information, and can also be advertised as weight loss apps. Diet and nutrition apps offer calorie counters and informative content relating to dietary requirements. Some fitness apps will also include diet and nutrition features, such as MyFitnessPal. This app includes a large food database, a barcode scanner and a recipe importer to help users monitor their nutritional intake.
  3. Meditation and relaxation apps: These are designed to help users meditate. For example, apps such as Calm and Headspace offer pre-recorded meditation sessions for users to help with sleep, anxiety and overall well-being.
  4. Sleep apps: This type of app can monitor sleep patterns, offer features to help users improve their sleep and share analytics. Sleep apps can use a sound recording to identify restless sleep and use sleep tracking to maintain a regular sleep pattern.
  5. Medical apps: These are apps that enable users to get professional advice and join a health-conscious community.
  6. Health services apps: This includes any app that allows users to communicate with medical businesses such as pharmacies and hospitals. Health services apps can be used to arrange and manage appointments and prescriptions.

With these types of health, wellness and lifestyle apps in mind, here are the features that you may consider implementing into your own app.

Popular features for health and wellness apps

Here is a list of features that can be implemented to provide users with everything they need to stay fit and healthy with your mobile app.

Step counter

Also known as a pedometer, step counters are an essential feature for fitness apps. This will enable users to monitor how much they are talking each day and the length of their running routes. This can be used in conjunction with geolocation and a calorie burn calculator to show users where they have traveled and the overall impact on their fitness goals. Users should be able to set in-app targets for how many steps they want to complete each day, week and month.


This is an essential feature for fitness and wellness apps as it allows users to track their movements while performing long-distance activities such as jogging and cycling. This also means users can view their workouts from a bird’s-eye-view and track the overall distance.


Health and wellness apps can gamify their features by inviting users to participate in leaderboards. For best results, developers make this feature optional to avoid demotivating users who are unable to compete with the highest performing users. Another option is to provide competition between friends. However you choose to implement leaderboards in your app, this can be a great way to engage users and motivate them to push their workout for better results.


Whether you have a meditation app for relaxation or a fitness app for full-body workouts, analytics are a core component of fitness and wellness apps. Users need to be able to monitor their activity and optimize for the best results. User analytics also allow you to reengage users and retain them for longer. This is because you can incorporate in-app notifications and push notifications as a feature to help users reach their targets.


While users should be able to use health and wellness apps immediately after installing, these types of apps can also offer consultation for nutrition, fitness and well-being. For example, you may want to work with professional nutritionists who can connect to users and answer any questions they may have about their diet. The nutritionist can use a user’s calorie counter and food tracker to provide consultative advice. Fitness apps can also recruit coaches and personal trainers and connect them with users.

Heart rate monitor

Wellness apps that can be connected to wearable devices can also offer a feature that monitors a user’s heart rate. This can be useful to users who want to know how their fitness and nutritional changes are affecting their heart rate.

Food tracker

Food and water trackers help users monitor their intake. This is an essential feature for diet and nutrition apps, which can be even more convenient by implementing a barcode scanner. This saves users time spent entering which foods they are consuming and allows them to scan their products’ barcodes instead. Fitness apps can use food trackers to inform users if they are burning enough calories to lose weight or if they are consuming enough to make weight gains.

Sleep tracker

This allows users to monitor their sleep patterns and make changes for better results. A sleep tracker is essential to sleep apps but can also be useful for fitness and meditation apps. This is because high-quality sleep is critical to maintaining or improving a user’s mental and physical condition. Sleep trackers range from tracking how long a user sleeps to identifying high levels of restlessness during sleep. Just like a pedometer, this is possible with a wearable device.

Social integration

Including social media integrations in your app is a great way to keep users retained for longer. This makes it easier for users to share their performance across social media channels and connects users with friends and family for leaderboards and chat functions. This is also a smart way to encourage user-generated content (UGC), which many fitness apps are using for social media marketing. Social media integration also makes it easier for users to sign up and start using your app.


Users should be able to like and favorite meditation sessions and workouts. This will give them easy access to the content that works best for them and allow you to make personalizations based on their preferences.

Personalized recommendations

Personalization is now a user expectation: 74% of customers are frustrated by online content that isn’t personalized and 90% of U.S. consumers find marketing personalization appealing. Just like including likes and favorites, recommendations are a smart way to optimize the user experience and provide the user with relevant content. This will increase engagement and offer a superior service to your users.

Best practices for health and wellness apps

Provide a diverse offering

Users will benefit from several features that help them maintain their well-being and optimize performance. For example, MyFitnessPal offers food analysis, calorie goals by meal and a series of fitness workouts. This empowers the user to gain everything they need within one app. However, this only applies if you can successfully implement multiple features and maintain a positive user experience. If adding more features diminishes the overall quality of your user experience, it may be better to have a single focus and aim to be the best mobile app for that niche.

Offer real-time tracking and analytics

You should provide users with tracking capabilities and analytics so that the user can observe their own behavior mid-session and long-term. This will give users the tools they need to succeed at improving or maintaining their health and overall well-being while also giving them targets. This will also incentivize users to keep your app installed, as their analytics become more valuable the longer they use it.

Focus on retention

Because health and wellness apps offer performance analysis that becomes more valuable over time, retaining users for as long as possible is critical to success. Fortunately, this app vertical benefits from notifications that will be useful to users by helping them reach their goals. You should allow users to set reminders and alerts to keep them engaged.

App Store Optimization

With more users maintaining their fitness and mental health from home, it is important to update your ASO to match popular search terms. For example, you may want to include “home workout” if you are marketing a fitness app: Peloton changed its messaging from “on-demand classes” to “fitness at home” and gained on average 3,000+ daily installs from organic search.

If you found this useful,  you may also be interested in how to develop a fitness app marketing plan. We also have a guide for retention strategies.

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