Do Fitness Apps Really Work?

smiling woman stretching on mat in the gymChances are you have some sort of healthy eating or fitness app. More than half of all mobile phone users have them and, well, since you’re reading this post, you probably among that group. But does it really work? Does it really make you healthier, stronger and fitter?

Perhaps. But in truth, this generation of healthy and fitness apps are just the beginning, setting the stage for a wave of tech tools that are even more effective at actually creating the kind of behavioral changes that will positively impact your body, mind and spirit.

That’s the news generated by a study of more than 100 top fitness apps and their usage of behavior change techniques (BCTs). Researchers evaluated the apps for 93 specific BCTs and discovered that only 39 were found used at all, and just an average of 6.6 per app.

What is that important? Well, if the app only monitors your physical activity or eating, or simply provides you with pertinent info (how many calories you’re burning, steps taken calories eaten, etc.) then it’s not motivating, challenging or incentivizing you to change your behavior.

And that’s not good.

But there’s good news. App that are most effective either include a social network component (through Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that encourages accountability, provide instructions on how to perform a move (or do it better), or offer feedback.

These findings reinforce the conclusion that all apps are not created equal,” said lead investigator David E. Conroy, PhD, professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. “Prospective users should consider their individual needs when selecting an app to increase physical activity.”

So when you’re downloading a health or fitness app, look for ones that provide connectivity, instructions and that kick you in the butt!

The best on the market? LiveScience.com goes with MapMyFitness, followed by Argus, as well as a Runkeeper, LoseIt! and Runtastic.

Now, log in and get to it!

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