The scientific rap on fitness Apps

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Apologies for my absence, I have been incredibly busy completing all the tedious tasks associated with moving house.  Today is no different, so I’m going to be brief. Real brief.  Briefer than a bikini on Iggy Azalea’s butt!  

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Speaking of butts, you may have turned to a fitness, or physical activity coaching app in order to tone you butt, biceps, or belly. But are these apps actually any good? More importantly (in my opinion), are these apps based on sound exercise science, or simply a move by a developer to make a few easy bucks?  Well, usual story, a recent study has given the answer and ladies and gentlemen it ain’t at all pretty!

The study:

The study had a look at 30 of the most popular free fitness apps on the Apple app store.  It compared the content of each of the apps to the scientific recommendations for fitness in healthy adults written by the American College of Sports Medicine [ACSM].  These science based recommendations are to the fitness professional, what the bible is to a devote Christian.

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Sadly, of the 30 apps analysed only one adhered to more than 50% of the ACSM guidelines.  Yes, only one and it’s score was 64%, which, let’s face it, is pretty bloody low.

Is it healthful?

Yes, the content of the current, most popular fitness based apps is largely garbage.  But, because using one of these apps is likely better than nothing and they do contain SOME useful content (SOME) fitness apps are slightly healthful. If I were you I’d brush up on and follow the ACSM guidelines, or find a fitness professional who can adhere to these guidelines when prescribing you your program. Seacrest out!

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I hope this has been healthful. What are your thoughts? Have you tried a fitness app before? 

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8 thoughts on “The scientific rap on fitness Apps

  1. Although I agree with you that the ACSM is the “gold standard”, it is highly unlikely the average individual will be willing or able to follow their recommendations. People will always create false beliefs when it comes to exercise, nutrition and overall health. Examples include:
    (1) “Home exercise equipment is the answer because it is more convenient and accessible.”
    (2) Fitbit- “This will be the tool that keeps me on track.”
    (3) Fitness Pal “This will track my food and exercise and make me more accountable.”

    All great ideas; none of them (in a huge majority of the cases) achieve long term success.

    I don’t believe, however, the fault lies in the equipment, technology tools or computer applications. Long term success will ALWAYS originate from ONE PLACE; within the individual. It requires discipline and some sacrifice. Until people understand this, they will continue to look for the latest and greatest device, machine, pill, etc… to make them “healthy” and “fit.” Unfortunately the only place to find this solution is “Fantasy Land.”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. as you point out, the study compared the content of the apps with specific guidelines, but this isn’t in any way an effectiveness study or trial. In order to really evaluate the health impact of these apps, we’d need an RCT! it seems like many of them may be beneficial for their functions of tracking and creating accountability rather than pushing content– that is, they’re high-tech versions of training logs and food diaries, which have been shown to be beneficial. so this study is far from giving us a good look at what these apps can do!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment, Zabbylogica. That’s true, you would certainly need an RTC, or several, to determine the true health outcomes. However, based on the fact that these apps are missing significant amounts of content, they in isolation are unlikely to provide the health benefits of a holistic exercise program, like that advocated by the ACSM. For example, if a fitness app simply focuses on getting 10,000 steps daily, it completely neglects resistance training, which has independent effects on CVD, osteoporosis and various other conditions. Additionally, it doesn’t target optimal aerobic fitness variables with this simple goal.

      In combination, these apps may follow optimal guidelines and yes they likely get a lot of people more active than what they currently are, but they don’t replace a well rounded exercise regime prescribed and advocated by a professional.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have the MyFitnessPal app for calorie counting but not for exercise. I could not see the benefits of trying to exercise from a phone. There are gyms and exercise shows on tv for home exercising.

    Like

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