There are thousands of exercise apps. Some are very simple and some are highly sophisticated training apps, especially developed for personal trainers. But are they really useful? Do exercise apps improve exercise levels and health outcomes? The answer is yes.
Exercise apps can be viewed as intervention delivery systems with features that help users overcome specific barriers
A study lead by Leib Litman, Associate Professor of Psychology at Lander College, concluded that exercise app users are more likely to exercise during their leisure time, compared to those who do not use these apps.
In this study, 726 participants with one of three backgrounds were surveyed about their use of, at least, one training or exercise app. These three groups were divided into the following categories: 1.) those users who have never used exercise apps; 2.) those who used exercise apps discontinuously; and 3.) those who are currently using a training or an exercise app. Participants were asked about their long-term levels of exercise and about their levels of exercise during the previous week on the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ).
The IPAQ showed that those who actually use an exercise app had higher total leisure time metabolic equivalent of task (MET) expenditures (1169 METs), including walking and vigorous exercise, compared to those who stopped using their apps (612 METs) or who never used apps (577 METs). Importantly, physical activity levels in domains other than leisure time activity were similar across the groups. The big difference was in leisure time.
Current users of an exercise app also had a lower body mass index
The results also showed that current users had lower body mass index (BMI of 25.16), than past users (26.8) and non-users (26.9). The study pointed out that this association was defined in part by exercise levels and self-efficiency. Multiple serial mediation models were tested, which revealed that the association between app use and BMI is correlated with increased self-efficacy and increased exercise.
The study concluded that exercise app users are more likely to exercise during their leisure time, compared to those who do not use exercise apps, essentially fulfilling the role that many of these apps were designed to accomplish.
You can read the complete paper here.