TEN THOUSAND STEPS AND OTHER STORIES. DO FITNESS APPS REALLY WORK?

TEN THOUSAND STEPS AND OTHER STORIES. DO FITNESS APPS REALLY WORK?

Many of us now run our entire lives using apps. As well as organising work, home life and social life, apps are also very popular for health and fitness. There is everything from food intake monitors to step trackers, and even virtual fitness trainers.

It is very tempting to believe that if an app says you are getting fitter, it must be true. But is this right, or could apps do more harm than good?

HOW DO FITNESS APPS TRACK WHAT WE DO?

Fitness trackers contain a device called an accelerometer, which measures movement and direction. This works well for walking and running, but the device cannot monitor everything that you do. The software fills in the gaps by deducing what it thinks you are doing. This means that it can make mistakes and tell you that you have done more than you really have.

IS THERE ANY STANDARD OR REGULATION FOR FITNESS APPS?

None whatsoever! Anyone can set up an app if they have the skills, and there is no-one checking to see if an algorithm defining fitness actually means anything.

This doesn’t mean that fitness apps aren’t worth having. They just have to be used with a good chunk of common sense.

WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

The main concern is that one size never fits all. For instance, the standard 10000 steps a day target is all very well if you are in good health, but could be damaging for someone with walking issues who pushes it too far. The number is just a guideline and there is very little strong evidence for it.

For more serious workouts, an app could push you in the wrong direction. It can monitor your activity or reps, but it can’t check your form or tell you when you are risking injury.

THE CONCLUSIONS?

Fitness apps have a place, but don’t be a slave to them. 

Most of us know roughly how much food we need and how much exercise we should do to keep healthy. An app doesn’t change those facts. That said, they can definitely help to plan and track fitness goals.


The Author

Jessica Ambrose

Jessica is a fitness writer who loves long distance running, yoga, strength training and healthy eating.

Comments

Michael A.
21 March 2017

Michael A.

So many people have fitness apps now, but I am holding out. Even though I'm intrigued, I just don't want to get too involved with the micro-mechanics of my body. Just something else to get anxious over!

Debra G.
19 March 2017

Debra G.

I love my fitness tracker, but have wondered why it seems to have a different opinion on how much I've done from me. It definitely needs to be treated with a pinch of salt.

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