In today’s society, technology reigns supreme. People have an ever-decreasing attention span and are only concerned about what someone has done recently. Every day, industries all over the world use a variety of technological tools to get the job done. At the scholastic level, Columbus is among the tops in the nation with regards to incorporating technology in the classroom. It is no surprise that the exercise arena is following a similar trend. Videos, youtube channels, web-based training and applications are exploding in the industry; but are they exploiting it?
There has been such recent growth in this industry that it needed to be named. Mobile health, or “mHealth” for short, regards the use of mobile/wireless devices and applications to improve health outcomes, health care services and health research. Rough estimates account for over 43,000 mHealth apps. This is both a gift and a curse in that the opportunities for people to get cheap (possibly free) health advice comes at the cost of potentially unqualified opinions and extreme claims. In my opinion, the most important thing is to teach people how to critically evaluate mHealth apps in order to guide people towards the effective ones and away from ineffective, poorly designed or otherwise dangerous apps.
There are three things to look out for when evaluating an “mHealth” app:
- Who developed the app? Is it a reputable source of clinical information? Are they linked to researchers or a respected institution? Do they refer to studies from ACSM, ACE or the CDC?
- How strong is advertising? Does it feel like I’m being coerced into buying something? Is the subliminal message to purchase a product? Is the exercise advice tainted to lead me towards a certain product?
- Is the developer making claims about what the app can do? Am I promised changes in specific aspects of health? Are these changes physiologically possible or feasible with a single mode of exercise?
Keeping these three tenets in mind, it is also important to consider health and safety. Make sure that reading, consulting, and following the app doesn’t come at the cost of your health or safety when considering your surroundings. Exercise related accidents are common enough without the risk of decreased focus.
Before I conclude this post, I just wanted to direct you towards a few of the better applications. Each of these can be found for free on the iOS and Android based devices. These three are some of the most reputable for each of the three categories of mHealth apps. (I even use the Runkeeper app)
Runkeeper: an application for GPS running, walking, cycling. Also includes a weight tracker.
My Fitness Pal: an application for weight loss. Includes calorie counter, exercise database and fitness tracking.
Nike Training Club: an application for exercise routines. Includes over 100 full body workouts, instructional videos, and the ability to track progress.
I hope that this information was helpful. At the end of the day, if one of these apps motivates you to exercise than it’s done a good job.