To Get People to Actually Exercise, Fitness Apps Require Personalization

Fitness apps are more effective when personalized, a new study has concluded.

When fitness apps include personal touches such as individualized goals and contact with live trainers, users tend to exercise more consistently, according to an eight-week UBC study.

“More than ever before, mobile apps provide an opportunity to provide real-time feedback and support to the public and specialized health populations,” says Mary Jung, an assistant professor in UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences, who worked on the study. “In order for app users to reach their full potential, we need to ensure that they stay engaged and are provided with the best support.”

Jung worked with a fitness app company to incorporate goal setting, personalized feedback and opportunities for self-monitoring and self-evaluation—all key elements of health behavior change. Activity levels were compared between those who had use of the app compared to those who did not.

Not only did the test subjects use the app for the duration of the study, they exercised more. This is in comparison to the group that did not use the app and who showed no change in their exercise bouts.

According to Statistics Canada, only 7% of Canadian children are meeting activity guidelines that call for 60 minutes a day of moderate-to-vigorous exercise. For adults, that rate is 15%. In America, more than one in three adults are considered obese.

This research was funded by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.