Smart applications to track and record physical activity: implications for obesity treatment
Siew Sun Wong,1 Yu Meng,1 Paul D Loprinzi,2 Nobuko Hongu3
1School of Biological and Population Health Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA; 2Department of Exercise Science, Donna and Allan Lansing School of Nursing and Health Sciences, Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY, USA; 3Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
Abstract: The primary purpose of this review is to answer three research questions: 1) What are the most popular features of physical activity (PA) tracking and recording mobile applications (apps); 2) what features drive the app cost, peak rank, or gross sales; and 3) to what extent are evidence-based weight loss recommendations used in PA apps? Two hundred top grossing iOS health care and fitness apps were screened using a systematic review method. Fifty-five apps met the criteria as PA tracking and recording apps. Nearly half of these iOS PA apps are also available in Android. Two separate reviewers evaluated each PA app using 48 features. The top three most popular features are the use of behavioral strategies, use of the FITT Principles (frequency, intensity, time, type), and the use of the Principles for Physical Fitness. Free apps contain a mean of nine of the ten most popular features in paid apps, making them good bargains in PA promotion. Better peak rank is associated with the use of Fitness Principles, weight loss goal setting, or training videos. Ten PA apps met at least four of eight of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommendations for weight loss and prevention of weight regain for adults. The least popular features were PA safety and workouts for special need populations. Implications for obesity treatment are discussed in relationship to individual end-users, health care providers, and app developers. Because current PA apps still lack validity and compliance to standards for PA safety and data security, medical consultation for weight loss is recommended. The quality of PA apps on the market will improve through innovative support from the government, industry, and academia. The future of PA apps is bright, especially with the potential of using emerging technologies that involve low-cost wearable sensors, global information systems, and immersive technology such as virtual worlds and virtual reality.
Keywords: Android, exercise, iOS, mHealth, self-monitoring, technology