The use of smart phones nowadays is definitely becoming commonplace, especially with major providers offering progressively lower prices, making them very affordable for the general public. And what’s most fun about smart phones? Well apps of course! But do any of these apps have a notable impact on your health? Apps offering tips on how to improve health may not be enough as we all know that knowledge may not enough to cause behavioural change (1). For this reason, apps looking to improve fitness and health must offer more services than throwing tips at its users. And how useful are these apps for already fit individuals? What do they offer?
I stumbled across a fitness app developed by Adidas called the miCoach. What I thought was so distinctive about this app was how much content was offered for a free app. Users create an account on the app and enter preferred units, age and weight. It offers an introductory fitness test to assess fitness level as well as the “Free Workout” mode that helps calculate kcals spent while running, walking, biking or Nordic skiing. Preprogrammed workouts also include relative intensity levels that you can adjust to, all being delivered to you by the voice of some of your favourite athletes. If exercising outside, the app offers maps by using the phone’s GPS capabilities. Intensity, calories spent, distance and duration are all recorded and kept on record. You could then upload these to your miCoach account to track your workouts either online or on your phone. The miCoach site (2) offers fitness tips as well as a forum to help with other users regarding issues/solutions, tips on usage and other useful tidbits. The forums essentially create a supportive environment for the miCoach user, which makes it different from some of the lesser fitness apps.
For the individual just starting their fitness journey, the app offers guidance and data on different modes of exercise. The site offers a way to track your progress and the forums offer an encouraging environment to keep you motivated. Being able to visually see the graphical representation of your previous workouts may serve as feedback which may help motivate them according to McClellands achievement motivation theory and Hackman and Oldham’s job characteristics theory (3). Furthermore, the fact that its a smart phone app makes it somewhat fun, especially since you can customize the voice of your app. Missed a workout? That’s ok! The app includes a way to keep you accountable by letting you reschedule workouts. Because those who own smart phones ALWAYS have it with them (or at least I do), it enables users to take on a higher level of fitness by incorporating a convenience factor to fitness improvement.
For more experienced people, the forums may not be as useful since they may already have a good level of self efficacy but the route mapping help them explore new running/biking routes to keep workouts interesting. Workout tracking provides visual feedback on their progress which can help in fitness maintenance or tracking progress on advanced fitness goals.
The miCoach app is an example of how technology is trying to make better fitness more available to the public. Not saying its a replacement for personal trainers but who has the money to hire a running coach for all their workouts? The app attempts to make exercise assessable, convenient, interesting and fun and thus, to an extent, enabling the individual to improve their health. Other examples of mobile technology used to improve health include its use to improve immunization procedures (4) and connecting the elderly to available healthcare (5).