The best health, diet, and exercise apps for iPad
Our favorite iPad apps for cooking, relaxing, de-stressing and keeping fit.
Portal (free + various IAP)
Portal is an ambient noise/relaxation app that wants to take your mind somewhere else – and in a more literal sense than most. Instead of merely providing audio, Portal has you virtually travel to a range of serene locations. Each is a combination of video loop and 3D soundscape – a window to a tiny world designed to help you focus, relax, and sleep.
The free app gives you a slice of the full experience, with six portals to jump through. Pay the IAP and that number rises to over 40. On the larger screen of an iPad – and with headphones on – the experience is hypnotic.
It’s configurable, too, enabling you to overlay a clock, run a focus timer, and display the task you’re trying to concentrate on. The only thing you’ll wish when it’s running is that your iPad’s screen was the size of an actual window.
Streaks Workout ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)
Streaks Workout is a personal trainer squeezed into your iPad. But unlike many of its contemporaries, Streaks doesn’t make assumptions about your skill level and environment. You don’t need any equipment, and the app is flexible enough to fit around your capabilities and interests.
To rapidly kick things off, you can select exercises to use within random workouts, and choose from one of four timers. These range from the reasonable six-minute Quick to the arduous half-hour Extreme. As you exercise, the app records how you do, building up a log of your efforts.
At any point, you can create your own custom exercises, making the app truly yours. And with data syncing across the cloud, there’s no excuse for not working up a sweat, since Streaks can always be with you on iPad, iPhone, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.
Cosm is a mash-up of mental wellness aid and ambient instrument. Fire up a new session, prod the screen, and a calming note will play. Tap a few more times, and you’ll soon realize you’ve composed a custom loop to serenade you into the infinite.
So far, so Brian Eno’s Bloom – but Cosm takes things further. You get control over tuning, volume, and instrumentation. Most importantly, your compositions can be saved, whereupon the app encourages you to add a written note about how you feel.
The idea is to create a kind of journal that’s driven in part by the compositions you make – or at least to make compositions that give you a boost when you later return to them. Whether or not you’re a fan of Eno’s iPad apps, Cosm is well worth investigating.
Paprika is ideal for people who live in the kitchen. Whereas other cooking apps are content to serve up some recipes and a shopping list, Paprika is a full-fledged scrapbook and meal planner you can use for every aspect of your culinary world.
Recipes can be added manually or snipped from favorite websites. Anything added to the app can be adjusted, if you decide you’ve figured out a way to improve the dish or preparation methods, or fancy adding some photos. Beyond that, there’s an ingredients tracker, meal planner (with Calendar integration), menu creator, and the means to print recipes.
It’s not as visually flashy as the likes of Kitchen Stories and Tasty, but Paprika feels like the best bet for anyone whose iPad spends almost as much time in the kitchen as they do.
Streaks is habit-forming – in a good way. It’s effectively a to-do manager that focuses on what you want to do in your life – and bad habits you want to eradicate.
To get started, you create tasks, assign icons, and define durations. The app’s flexible regarding how often tasks should be done; and you can create time-based ones (whereupon the app temporarily becomes a timer), those that interact with Apple’s Health app, and ‘negative’ ones you don’t want to ‘complete’. Streaks then tracks your progress in handy graph form.
The app’s iPhone origins are obvious, not least in the main display that’s optimized for six tasks and therefore looks comical on iPad. But it’s nonetheless great to have this superb app in native form on Apple’s tablet, and iCloud sync ensures any changes you make are accessible across all your Apple gear.
CARROT Fit ($3.99/£3.99/AU$4.49)
CARROT Fit is the answer if a more sensible exercise app just isn’t doing it for you. Like CARROT Weather, this fitness tool is helmed by a snarky, sarcastic AI. Here, she comes across like the deranged offspring of HAL 9000 and a personal trainer. To wit, she’ll threaten, ridicule and bribe you, in order to “prevent your body from blimping up.”
The actual exercise bit is, broadly speaking, conventional, in that you partake in recognizable routines. But even there, CARROT Fit has a very distinct character, referring to push-ups as ‘Kowtows to Cthulhu,’ and subtly renaming the seven-minute workout ‘7 Minutes in Hell.’ Still, you’ll likely need some humor when sitting on the floor in a sweaty heap after a few minutes of exercise, and CARROT Fit has that over its straight-laced contemporaries.
White Noise+ (free + US$2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 IAP)
White Noise+ is a sound machine designed to reduce distractions by way of ambient noise. Many apps in this space are a bit new age and flowery, and quite a few are, frankly, rubbish. Fortunately, White Noise+ is none of those things, instead providing a thoroughly modern, tactile take on noise generation.
The app’s based around a grid akin to smart drums in GarageBand. Here, you get 16 slots, into which you drag icons that represent different sounds. Those toward the top play more loudly, and those toward the right have more complex loops. Your mixes can be saved, and sleep timers and alarms are available if you want to use White Noise+ for meditation sessions – or for waking you up should you doze off.
You get a handful of sounds to play with for free, but the full set requires a one-off IAP. Given the quality of the app, it’s well worth the outlay.
Jamie Oliver’s Ultimate Recipes ($6.99/£6.99/AU$10.99)
We’re not sure what makes this edition of the famous mockney chef’s recipe book ‘ultimate’, bar that word being very clearly written on the icon.
Still, Jamie Oliver’s Ultimate Recipes is certainly a very tasty app. The 600 recipes should satisfy any given mood, whether you’re after a sickeningly healthy salad or fancy binging on ALL THE SUGAR until your teeth scream for mercy.
Smartly, every recipe offers step-by-step photos, so you can see how badly you’re going wrong at any point. And when you’ve nearly burned down the kitchen, given up and ordered a pizza, you can watch the two hours of videos that reportedly tell you how to “become a real kitchen ninja”.
Note: this doesn’t involve wearing lots of black and hurling sharp objects at walls, sadly.