With thousands of fitness and weight loss apps available, how do you choose one which will actually help you meet your goals?
That’s a good question!
Several studies have been conducted recently which provide clear evidence suggesting well designed apps can increase activity levels and keep you motivated. As I wrote in an article on HealthyWay , one study was critical of most apps for failing to meet all of the American College of Sports Medicine’s Guidelines for Physical Activity, but I don’t think that is really the issue. Most Americans get just eight minutes of physical activity per day, or 56 minutes per week. ANY increase in activity is beneficial. If a free app reminds you to get up and move around more, that is excellent.
According to a study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, fitness app users are more likely to exercise had have lower BMI than non-users or those who used an app for a while and then quit. This is good news.
So, what makes a fitness app effective?
It turns out even just setting goals and tracking your progress can do the trick. An Irish study, indicates that participants who used an interactive app which provided feedback about progress towards goal significantly increased daily activity over a group which used an app that simply logged steps.
Look for fitness apps that combines elements known to support behavior change:
- Positive and interactive: Providing uplifting messages, support, and motivation is key. The FitBit app does this very well. The app is simple, tracking steps and allowing users to log other data such as ounces of water or calories consumed. The real beauty comes through badges earned through steps, encouraging messages (you are almost to your goal), and the ability to connect with friends in good-natured competition.
- Specific and incremental: “I will take 10,000 steps today” is a more specific goal and will be more successful than a goals such as, ‘I will be more active’. Successful apps ask users to make measurable daily goals.
- Intentional and motivational: If you are intentional about something on a daily basis, change will happen. Most apps have the option to set reminders or have prompts built into the design.
- Individual and flexible: Cookie cutter activity or eating plans are less likely to be effective than plans that can be modified to fit individual needs. Apps that allow users to set beginning fitness levels, age, injury issues, dietary preferences, etc., will be more successful. The University of Florida Study recommended Sworkit as a comprehensive and flexible app.
- Simple and easy: If an app is too complicated or is discouraging to use, you won’t be likely to go back to it day after day. I’m a fan of Johnson & Johnson’s 7 Minute Workout App. It is simple to use, mixes up activities, and is quick.
The key is to find an app (or a couple of them) that encourages and supports more activity.
What app gets you moving? We’d love to know what is, or isn’t, working for you. Please share in a comment below.