Staying physically active is the key to a long happy life – well, part of the key anyways. So it might sound a little strange that only about 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of daily physical activity. Only one out of three adults get the recommended weekly exercise. We know that staying active is essential, yet the numbers show that not a lot of people do it.
Why is that?
First, exercising is completely avoidable. Food, on the other hand, is essential, so at one point we have to make healthier food options, even temporarily. But exercising requires planning, getting out of your house (usually), and dedicating a set amount of time exclusively to it. Some may think it’s not worth the effort.
Fitness tracking software offers a potential fix to this issue. But where does the research stand on it?
What Is Fitness Training Software?
Even if you do manage to make time and sign up for a gym, there are more issues to tackle: what exactly should you do? Meaning, what are the activities that could help you, specifically? Do you need cardio, or should you stick to just lifting weights? Are you doing the exercises properly, or are you just sailing through a few reps and calling it a day?
Fitness training software is a program or a mobile phone app that essentially allows you to reach your fitness goals in one way or another. These kinds of apps are generally merged into the larger mobile health category because they essentially have to do with helping users get more physical, therefore more healthy. Often used to facilitate engagement and as part of larger other blended care programs, they can play a large part in health coaching.
Based theoretically on psychological coaching concepts like motivation, reflection, goal-setting, and accountability, these apps or programs offer different services to help you achieve various health goals. For instance, some personal informatics:
- Monitor physiological data by syncing with wearable devices, telling you how active you are during the day. Most smartphones right now have some health app pre-installed that tells users how many steps they’ve made in a day (well, at least how many steps you’ve taken with your phone in your hand or pocket).
- Offer exercise routines, meal plans, or recipes, thus serving an informational function.
- Others may provide more personalized feedback based on your progress or experience sampling data entered.
Types of Fitness Software
Other types of fitness training software include:
- Workout and exercise mobile apps
- Diet and nutrition software with integrated fitness services
- Motivational software – they can, for instance, provide challenges users have to go through
- Improvement training – usually appropriate for those who already exercise, but want to become better. For instance, if you are used to running, but want to run faster or longer distances, a running app could help you achieve your goals
- Expert guidance – some programs or apps connect users to a real-life professional fitness expert to help people achieve their fitness goals
- Sophisticated wearable devices, such as fitness watches – though not just software, they have recently become a lot more popular.
What’s the Point of Fitness Training Software?
Health and fitness is a topic on everyone’s mind these days. Thanks to the prevalence of smartphones and digital technology, these efforts can now be more effective – the main premise apps and programs in virtual care and self-care models.
First, let’s take a closer look at the supposed benefits of fitness training software. What exactly can they bring to the table?
- Tracking Progress
Knowing where you started and how far you’ve come along can be incredibly motivating in fitness. After all, the visible result won’t show up right away, and it’s possible not to notice any other major health changes once you start working out.
But many of these apps will track your exercising and show you exactly what your progress is. For instance, you can set a goal of 10,000 daily steps, and use the tracker on your smartphone to see if you’re under, or over your goals. At the end of the week, see how you progressed. Are you more active? Or do you need a little extra push?
- Learn how to approach working out
If you don’t have access to a gym all the time or cannot afford to work with a personal trainer, fitness training apps can come in quite handy. Depending on the goals you choose, they can help provide tips or even entire workout routines to follow.
These apps allow you to choose the kind of workout you want, as well as the level of difficulty that’s more comfortable to you. Some even provide exercises you can do at home, without needing very expensive equipment.
- Help you reach your goals
An important thing in fitness training is knowing what are your goals because they will often dictate the kind of exercise you need.
For instance, do you want to lose weight? Because in this case, you’ll need a combination of cardio and weights. Focusing on heart health? Then only some types of cardio exercises are good for you.
A lot of these apps actually ask you about your fitness goals upfront, and then gather data on your performance to show you how close you are to achieve it.
- Help you stay on track
For some, starting to work out may not be the most difficult part of the process. Without the right motivation, it’s long-term dedication that might feel problematic instead. But fitness training software claims to help motivate their users to stick to their exercising routines.
This can be done in several different ways:
- Push notifications to remind you to work out
- Sending motivational messages to encourage you
- Creating a rewards system
- Offering challenges or game that can make the entire process more enjoyable
- Providing a cheap solution
Lots of fitness training software is even free, and if you also choose online coaching apps designed to help you work out at home with almost no equipment, then the entire process is a lot cheaper.
This makes fitness apps or programs convenient from a financial perspective, as you don’t have to worry about paying high gym fees or finding a trainer with a fee that fits your budget. Plus, when you factor in that a lot of these apps also integrate nutrition and dieting services, the benefits are doubled.
What Does the Research Say About These Apps?
Fitness training apps can claim almost whatever they want in their marketing, but can science back them up?
Here are some studies on the subject and their conclusions:
- A study of 78 participants showed fitness apps positively affected the attitudes of people towards exercising and encourage them to take more steps as the apps were monitoring their performance
- App usage and perception of usefulness are tightly connected to the individual’s attitude towards this type of software. Additionally, enthusiasm in the apps can decrease over time
- Fitness app use is perceived by users as having a direct impact on how much they exercise, and even their social life
- A content analysis guided by the Motivational Technology Model and Self-Determination Theory found that certain features of the add BodySpace (specifically those that elicit competence, autonomy, and relatedness) can influence workout motivation
- One study looking at how college students use fitness apps found that they either use the app to reinforce certain behaviors or to help them meet a goal. In any case, the students preferred apps that were free, easy to use, provided visual/auditory cues and had game-like rewards.
Though fitness software efficacy studies aren’t as prevalent and, for the most part, include small participant samples, the general consensus emerging from most findings concerns user attitudes.
Looking at the relationship between fitness apps’ user experiences, self-efficacy, and motivation, for example, studies have shown that users’ motivation and self-efficacy are highly dependent on app design. The degree to which they offer successful data, gamification, and content outlay, as well as their context sensitivity and ability to adapt motivational feedback in particular, were important. Put simply, fitness apps and programs may have some potential benefits in fitness goal achievement, but this varies between individuals and the precise app itself.
Essentially, software and coaching apps may only do so much. They may provide the tools you need, but you are still at the wheel, controlling the journey. Research has found that working with a personal trainer can help people stick to their workout routines and improve their health, so perhaps the same principle translates into personal training done via mobile apps or digital means.
Fitness Training Software to Consider
Though the numbers aren’t completely in yet, you may still benefit from using fitness training software. It’s possible it will give you that much-needed push to step out of the comfort zone and take you closer to your fitness goals.
Here are a few apps and programs to consider:
|Fitbit is a free app you can use to count steps, track calories, monitor heart rate, log food, measure hydration – and more. Fitbit offers a lot of data on your health and daily activity, especially if you pair it with one of its wearable fitness trackers, which can even alert you when you’re heart’s beating to fast and need to calm down a bit.|
The app works with just your phone too, but it can only give you so much info. The watches or bracelets allow you to record workout sessions so you can see exactly how many calories you burned, and what were the more intense minutes.
|Good For||Step Counting, Calorie and Food Tracking, HR Monitoring|
|This app acts like a virtual personal trainer, complete with dieting and nutrition information. It offers hundreds of workouts you can try at home or at the gym, and create personalized meal plans.|
The exercises come with text or video instructions, and you can navigate through more difficult plans as you go through your fitness journey.
|Good For||Progress Logging, Meal Plans, Workout Plans|
|This app is specifically designed to help you train for a 5K run by committing 30 minutes three times a week, for nine weeks. You can choose a virtual coach to give you advice during training sessions, as well as calculate your pace, map routes, check your progress, and listen to music while training.|
It’s a great app for people who want to take up jogging the smart and safe way.
|Name||Couch to 5k|
|Good For||Virtual Coaching, Pace Calculator, Route Mapping, Progress Tracking|
|Are 7 minutes a day all you can manage to dedicate to your workout? Then this app is for you because it offers 7-minute workout plans you can do almost anywhere, at any time it’s most convenient for you. The app will ask you to set a goal (losing weight, getting stronger, or getting fit), and then offer short exercise plans to help you get closer to your goals.|
7 minutes doesn’t sound like enough time to get those endorphins pumping, but the Seven workouts are based on scientific principles of exercising. All the activities are carefully chosen to make your body burn calories or strengthen muscles. It can be a great app to start your fitness process, and once you become comfortable with it, you can move on to longer workouts.
|Name||Seven – 7 Minute Workout|
|Good For||Goal Setting, Workout Plans|
|This app is perfect if you are already kind of self-motivated to work out, but just need an overview of your progress. You can track, log, and analyze your physical activity and compare them to your goals.|
The app offers challenges you can try out to push yourself, and can even be synched to wearable devices or other health apps like those for nutrition.
|Good For||Progress Tracking, Goal Setting, Physical Therapy|
|Accountability and results go hand-in-hand when it comes to great fitness, and Nudge Coach is a mobile app based on this premise.|
It includes tracking features to measure client progress, reminder and notification functions, and a host of client communication options to help you build health engagement.
For fitness trainers and those running their own business, it’s highly customizable and can be used with groups and individual clients alike.
|Good For||Team Development, Individual Coaching, Customer Relationships, Health Engagement|
Working out is like going to the dentist: it’s not the most enjoyable thing in the world, but you kind of have to do it to stay healthy. Sure, some of us do legitimately enjoy working out, whereas few enjoy going to the dentist, but that’s neither here nor there.
The main takeaway when it comes to most fitness training software is that at its core, it is just a tool. It may have the potential to help you reach your fitness goals, but whether you do or not greatly depends on you. If you stick to working out, eating healthily, and doing the right exercises, you may find them very helpful.
- ^ HHS.gov. (2020). Facts & Statistics - Physical Activity. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/resource-center/facts-and-statistics/index.html
- ^ Li, I., Dey, A., & Forlizzi, J. (2010, April). A stage-based model of personal informatics systems. In SIGCHI, Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 557-566). SIGCHI.
- ^ Gabbiadini, A., & Greitemeyer, T. (2019). Fitness mobile apps positively affect attitudes, perceived behavioral control and physical activities. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 59(3), 407.
- ^ Herrmann, L. K., & Kim, J. (2017). The fitness of apps: a theory-based examination of mobile fitness app usage over 5 months. mHealth, 3(2), 1.
- ^ Wang, Q., Egelandsdal, B., Amdam, G. V., Almli, V. L., & Oostindjer, M. (2016). Diet and physical activity apps: perceived effectiveness by app users. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 4(2), e33.
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- ^ Gowin, M., Cheney, M., Gwin, S., & Franklin Wann, T. (2015). Health and fitness app use in college students: a qualitative study. American Journal of Health Education, 46(4), 223.
- ^ Asimakopoulos, S., Asimakopoulos, G., & Spillers, F. (2017). Motivation and user engagement in fitness tracking: Heuristics for mobile healthcare wearables. Informatics, 4(1), 5.
- ^ McClaran, S. R. (2003). The effectiveness of personal training on changing attitudes towards physical activity. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 2(1), 10.