Smartphone use spurs better fitness participation

Adding smartphone capability to online fitness efforts can improve participation, according to an Australian university study recently published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The Centre for Physical Activity Studies at CQ University in North Rockhamptom, Australia, originally designed a web-based program--10,000 steps--to encourage patients to be more mobile, specifically to attempt to take and monitor at least 10,000 steps per day, according to the study. Then, a new variable was added to determine whether using a smartphone app called iStepLog to track and monitor activity levels could encourage participants to be more active.

Researchers found that participants who tracked their steps via the smartphone app maintained their average number of steps from a pre-intervention period through an intervention period. Participants without the app, however, fell off steeply, averaging 3,700 steps fewer on average, once the study started.

Smartphone access seemed to make participants more likely to track their steps, as well. Participants using the smartphone logged onto the site to post their steps just as often during the study as they had before (61 days before, 62 days during). Participants without the smartphone app seemed less motivated, logging onto the site only 41 days during the study, compared to 61 days in the pre-intervention period, the study finds.

Researchers caution that the study is limited in scope, and that more research is needed to see if the patient engagement pluses of using smartphone apps continues in the longer term.

The findings may not be a total surprise, though, given Australia's love affair with smartphones (which actually is even hotter than in the U.S., according to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald from last fall. The Herald quotes a Google survey that placed Australia as No. 2 in the world for smartphone penetration, with 37 percent of the population.

To learn more:
- check out the JMIR study
- read about Australia's smartphone habits