Mobile Fitness Apps: A Fad or The Real Deal?
November 4, 2014Nicole Nadal
The $24 billion dollar fitness industry continues to grow as the use of technology – both inside and outside of the gym – expands. Specifically, it’s the mobile app trend that continues to bolster this number with over 6,800 apps listed in the health and fitness category. As with most trends, there are two camps when it comes to fitness apps: the camp that believes this kind of technology doesn’t include tried-and-true behavior change methods, and is thus a fad, and the camp that believes it encourages and supports an active and healthy lifestyle, and is thus the real deal.
The $24 billion dollar fitness industry continues to grow as the use of technology – both inside and outside of the gym – expands. Specifically, it’s the mobile app trend that continues to bolster this number with over 6,800 apps listed in the health and fitness category. As with most trends, there are two camps when it comes to fitness apps: the camp that believes this kind of technology doesn’t include tried-and-true behavior change methods, and is thus bogus, and the camp that believes it encourages and supports an active and healthy lifestyle, and is thus the real deal. I, personally, am in the latter camp. As a group fitness instructor – teaching spinning, Pilates, and Zumba – I am an advocate for anything that gets people moving.
My group fitness career began in college when my school’s spinning instructor graduated and I snagged the opening. As many instructors will tell you, mobile apps have only made teaching classes easier. For example, when you are teaching a class you need to bring your own music. There are many DJ apps – like Songza, Pandora, and FitRadio – that allow you to choose and mix your own music so that it’s tailored to your specific class. Long gone are the days of scouring YouTube and iTunes for hours to hand-curate a playlist. In a matter of seconds, I am able to create a playlist that’s perfect for the class I’m teaching – and it’s that very playlist that motivates my students to get excited, perform at their best, and keep coming back. It’s safe to say that my smartphone is the one piece of technology that I cannot live without when I’m running a class.
Pump-up music is just one of the ways mobile apps have impacted the health and wellness world. Having all the tools, such as interactive coaching, a heart rate monitor, pedometer, mileage tracker, and exercise reminders in one place has motivated millions to lead a healthier lifestyle and, more significantly, enabled them to tap into and develop communities focused on helping each other achieve their goals. By sharing advice, workouts, and recipes and offering messages and pings of support when people are challenged to keep up with their workouts and diet, mobile apps have given people access to a network of people committed to being active and healthy unlike ever before. This model clearly works as many new and existing pieces of technology are integrating community forums and partner check-in systems to help with overall success. In my experience, the more people feel like they are part of a supportive community of likeminded individuals with similar goals, the more likely they are to stick with their workouts and making healthy choices.
In fact, the community aspect to so many of these apps is the primary reason why I recommend that my clients download and use them. It’s a way to keep themselves accountable for their workouts when they aren’t with me and to ensure they are making smart and healthy choices when it comes to their food. Thankfully, there are as many apps to monitor, track, research, and measure our diet as there are for our exercise. Unsurprisingly, the apps and mobile sites for food tracking, monitoring, researching, and measuring that have the greatest adoption amongst users also integrate a social community support system as well as food and exercise tracking. Apps like MyFitnessPal have over 40 million users, and are actively incorporating the community support system aspect into their app to ensure their users have the highest opportunity for success.
While I’ve experienced and witnessed the positive benefits of technology when it comes to maintaining, enhancing, and accelerating a fitness and diet journey, the U.S. is still the nation with the highest obesity and diabetes rates. Therefore, it’s difficult to assert whether or not mobile workout technology can make a true impact on the wellbeing of our nation. However, it’s important to recognize that while these apps may not be motivating and changing behaviors for everyone, they are still working for some and that’s a lot better than no one at all.
Some of my favorite apps:
Couch-to-5K – Guides the user in an interval-training workout that gradually teaches the body how to run a 5K
Fooducate – Food tracker as well as teacher that helps people make smarter choices about what they are eating.
Nike Training Club – Curated exercises that help you reach your fitness goals. Internal personal trainer shows you how to do the exercise and speaks to you throughout to help you finish the tough workouts.