In recent years, and especially since the pandemic, the surge in the popularity of digital fitness apps and wearable fitness trackers has been hard to ignore. With features like workout tracking, goal setting, and gamification, these tools have made it easier than ever for people to monitor and improve their physical activity levels.
But with so many options on the market, it can be difficult to know whether these apps are actually effective in promoting a healthy lifestyle. Let’s find out what are the benefits and risks of these apps, and if they do contribute to getting and maintaining a healthier lifestyle.
What are digital fitness apps and digital fitness challenges?
Digital fitness apps are applications usually designed for mobile that offer various tools and resources to help individuals track, monitor, and improve their physical health and fitness.
These apps may include features such as step trackers, calorie counters, workout routines, nutrition guides, and gamification elements to make physical activity accessible, engaging and entertaining.
Most allow users to set fitness goals, monitor their progress and connect with friends or a community for social support and accountability.
Some famous examples of consumer-oriented digital fitness apps include Strava or Pacer, but also more game-oriented apps, like Pokemon Go.
For companies looking at developing their own fitness trackers, some specialised app development agencies, like SG-based District Technologies, focus on creating branded fitness challenge apps for brand activation, employee engagement or charities.
It is also important to note that the segment is also looking at covering more than fitness, as the demand from consumers is shifting toward a more holistic vision of wellness & well-being.Meditation apps have also increasingly gained popularity, with audio tracks and daily reminders.
Even more surprising, the new Pokemon Sleep app, where the user gets rewarded if they sleep and rest well every night, is a fascinating example of healthy behaviour gamification.
What are the benefits of Digital Fitness apps?
Promoting physical activity as part of a daily routine
Digital fitness apps can encourage individuals to become or stay physically active by setting goals, taking part in challenges, tracking progress, and promoting consistency with notifications and reminders.
Most of these apps include step trackers or GPS-based features for users to monitor their daily activity levels and encourage them to meet their targets. They can also b linked to wearables (connected watches) for more accurate tracking.
Making fitness more accessible and convenient
Digital fitness apps are widely accessible and can be downloaded easily on mobile phones, making them convenient for users to access anywhere and anytime.
These apps can be used as a complement to a fitness routine, or as a standalone – replacing an expensive gym membership or home equipment for some users.
Easy-to-read data to optimize progress tracking
These apps can help users track their progress and monitor their health and fitness goals. While some fitness trackers allow users to record and analyse their physical activity, some also offer to keep an eye on food intake, stress and sleep patterns, which provide valuable insights into users’ overall health and fitness.
Gamification to increase motivation
Many digital fitness apps use gamification elements, such as rewards and challenges, to motivate and engage users. These features create a sense of competition and achievement, which helps individuals stay committed to their fitness goals and maintain their physical activity levels over time.
Are digital fitness apps and challenges effective and transforming their users’ lifestyles?
Yes, there is evidence suggesting that using fitness trackers and fitness apps can help people be healthier. Many studies have shown that these tools can effectively promote physical activity and healthy behaviours. For example, a review of 28 studies published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that using fitness trackers was associated with increased physical activity and improved health outcomes, including weight loss and cardiovascular health.
Another study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that people who used a digital fitness app were more likely to engage in physical activity and had more significant improvements in their fitness levels compared to those who did not use the app. Additionally, a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people who used a smartphone app to track their physical activity and diet had better weight loss outcomes than those who did not.
That said, there are also some limitations and risks associated with digital fitness apps.
The absence of fitness and health professionals involved fails to ensure that the participant is physically able to take part in virtual challenges, and some apps may not suit individuals with certain medical conditions or physical limitations.
Additionally, some programs may not provide reliable information and advice, leading to incorrect training (and therefore less or no result) or injury. Keep in mind that everyone can develop a fitness app; no credential is required.
We would therefore highly recommend doing some research and selecting a reputable digital fitness app before use, especially if you fall under a population with specific health concerns.
Finally, a fitness challenge app should be an addition, but not a substitute for an overall healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, daily movement (8000 to 10000 steps a day) and regular physical activity.
Despite these limitations, we can’t deny the effectiveness of digital fitness apps in promoting healthy lifestyle habits. As technology advances, these fitness apps and digital challenges will likely become even more personalised, effective, and accessible, making them an even more valuable tool for promoting physical activity and healthy living.