Fitness Apps Aren’t Always Effective


Will it help?

I probably don’t need to tell you this, but some $2.99 app on your smartphone isn’t a valid replacement for a proper fitness regimen and/or a personal trainer. While some apps might be very effective (like those photo ones that make your face look super fat), most fitness apps are about as effective in getting you in shape as you downing a daily tub of ice cream.

I’m not just hating on fitness apps this because I’m some sort of tech-phobic dude (I spend my entire working day online, although I do still rock a CD player in my car.) A team of researchers at Brigham Young University have found that most fitness apps fall short in getting users to make actual lifestyle changes.

According to researcher Sarah VanWagenen, most fitness apps fail due to a lack of customization for the user and aren’t actually based on real science:

“The majority don’t ask for age, height, weight or any kind of basic health information,” she said. “You just sign up and they give you a program and some advice based on general recommendations.”

The BYU team analyzed 127 different fitness apps, rating them for their ability to get users to make positive life changes in terms of fitness. Researchers gave a score out of 100 to each app, rating each on benefits like accountability, motivation, behavior tracking, and social networking. The highest rated app received a score of just
28 out of 100 points. More than a third of the apps the team rated received a score of less than 10.

Have you ever used a fitness app? If so, did you actually lose weight and/or get in shape as a result? According to the results of this study, it’s more likely you paid for the feeling of having a solid fitness app as opposed to an actual reliable fitness app.

This isn’t to say using a fitness app is necessarily a waste of time. In conjunction with a solid fitness regimen, it’s likely you’ll actually benefit from using a fitness app. Just be sure not to rely solely on an app when working on your fitness goals.

Like most apps, fitness apps aren’t anything you actually need. I don’t need an app that lets me play piano, but I like having it. You don’t need an app to tell you how much cardio you should do on Tuesday. I don’t think Babe Ruth needed a batting app or Jon “Bones” Jones needed an app to learn how to fight.

VanWagenen did note that fitness apps have been getting better. If you find an app that’s gotten good reviews and works with your current fitness regimen, then go for it.

With the ubiquity of apps today, it’s no wonder there are so many fitness apps. The more smartphones people buy, the more these types of apps will be made. I can’t stop you from buying a fitness app. If you’re going to buy one, however, just do your homework. I’ll be happy following my own fitness regimen and sticking with the fat face app.

About John Brhel

John Brhel is a freelance writer from upstate New York that enjoys picking apart life's idiosyncrasies and listening to Huey Lewis & the News.

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