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  • Writer's pictureDavid Wilderman

Do Mobile Devices Help To Increase Physical Activity?

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

Using your mobile devices can help to make fitness fun and interesting, but can they also alter your behavior by increasing your physical activity? According to a research study in the Journal Of Medical Internet Research, the answer is “yes.” We all hear people blaming technology for making us lazy, arguing that we spend way more time on our phones, tablets, or computers than we do being physically active. However, mobile health and fitness technology are helping to change that opinion with the introduction and growth of the app market and online communities. Since we now have portable tools at our disposal 24/7 that can help us track our health and fitness information, we should start to see mobile devices as an opportunity to improve our health rather than as a burden to our health.

Mobile Technology and Fitness

Studies have been performed to determine the effectiveness of mobile devices on physical activity behavior. In 2012, researchers in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign conducted a research study that they claimed was the “first to synthesize current research focused on the use of mobile devices for increasing physical activity.” By looking at a number of studies that used mobile “interventions” (such as text messages offering exercise motivation), researchers were able to determine that mobile devices can increase physical activity.

Research studies such as this also help us to understand the best use of these mobile devices as they pertain to fitness. Their research included more than 1,350 subjects. Of those research studies, 8 used text messages to offer fitness motivation, 4 relied on smartphone apps, and 2 used self-reports on tablets.

One of the studies found that initially underachieve adults aged 50+ who received daily and weekly feedback, goal setting, and support through their mobile devices increased their moderate to vigorous physical activity by 177.7 minutes per week! Those who weren’t given feedback, goal setting, and support through their mobile devices decreased their moderate to vigorous physical activity by 80 minutes per week. These results indicate that mobile devices may be effective tools for increasing physical activity levels among underactive adults.

The Rise of the App Store

When Apple’s App Store launched in July of 2008, it made the word “app” mainstream to smartphone users. Today, there are more than 165,000 health and fitness apps in Apple’s App Store! Many of those apps influence behavioral changes in their users, promoting healthier lifestyles. Behavioral changes can include healthier food choices, consistent exercise regimes, and tracking of vital health information.

Mobile devices are being used as a hub for individuals’ health and fitness information, including weight trackers, food diaries, exercise videos, and training tools, just to name a few. All of those elements work as motivators that encourage physical activity and fitness. These apps range from calorie counters that track nutritional information to medical apps that help users quit smoking.

The researchers from this University of Illinois study found the inclusion of advanced sensors, such as integrated accelerometer and GPS devices, hold promise for even more accurate assessment of physical activity in real time. These sensors can track speed, pace, distance, location, and help motivate the users of these devices to push that one more mile, beat their last timed run, or try new routes. An app such as MapMyRun can help users find nearby running or hiking routes. If you’re traveling for the weekend, don’t know the area, or just want to find a new route where you live, you can simply go to an app to find popular running or hiking routes. These apps also allow users to create new routes and share them with others.

Sharing Means Caring

The ability to share has become extremely popular in the health and fitness industry making it even easier to do so. Many fitness apps include a “share” button where users can post their completed exercises to social media networks like Facebook or Twitter, showing their friends how far or fast they ran, or highlighting a new goal they reached. The ability to set goals and share results motivates users to do more, catering to a competitive streak in all of us. It’s clear that mobile devices are impacting how people are managing their health and, with recent studies, we are able to see just how much of a positive influence they can have. By effectively using these devices to measure and monitor our health and fitness information, we not only have the potential to increase our physical activity but to improve our overall health.

And as always, if you or someone you know needs some guidance in how to start an exercise program, progress one to stay active, or just where to begin to get physical activity into your daily routine, call me at (302)691-9055 or visit my website at to schedule your FREE 30 minute Discovery Visit to see how Physical Therapy can help. Don’t delay–schedule now!

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