Wellness: Is There An App For That?

Whether it is eating better or exercising, many of us need daily reminders, support, and something to keep the process interesting. There are thousands of smart phone apps promising weight loss and ripped abs, but do they really work?

October 5, 2015
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Most of us are looking for a way to stay motivated and consistent with healthy habits. Whether it is eating better or exercising, many of us need daily reminders, support, and something to keep the process interesting. There are thousands of smart phone apps promising weight loss or ripped abs, but do they really work? Is there an app for that?

A recent study conducted at the University of Florida is critical of most free apps. The apps were compared to the American College of Sports Medicine’s Guidelines for Physical Activity including:

– 150 minutes of cardiorespiratory exercise per week

– Resistance exercise two or three days per week

– Flexibility exercise two or three days per week

– Neuromotor exercise (balance, agility, and coordination) two or three days per week

Yes, measured against these criteria, most fitness apps fall short. But is that really the point?

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. If an app allows you to log what you eat and be more intentional, fantastic.

The secret to successful weight loss or fitness plans is to combine motivation and support for behavior change. A fitness or weight loss app isn’t going to be a magic cure, but they can support behavior change by:

– Providing positive messages, support, and motivation: 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.

– Making users set specific goals: “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

– Reminding users to be intentional about goals: 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.

– Individualizing activities: 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.

– Being easy and pleasant to use: 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.

So, is there an app for that? There certainly could be. With so many to choose from for any smart phone, finding one to suit your specific needs using the criteria above is very possible. Try some out, most have a free version. Whether you are just getting started toward your goal or just need some new ideas to keep you motivated, a smart phone app may just be trick

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