Health apps: what’s not to love? An app that can help us reach our health goals whilst easily fitting into busy lifestyles… and they’re usually free. Is it too good to be true? Unfortunately, at the moment, it might be.
Words: Caitlyn Hobbs, Subeditor: Shannon Cowley
There are now over 43,000 health and fitness apps in the Apple Store, and there have been 660 million downloads since June 2013. They’re definitely popular, but health experts are dubious about their benefits as well as their risk factors.
According to a study done by the IMS institute for Healthcare, of the 43,000 plus apps out there, only 16,275 are directly linked to patient care and treatment. The rest provide information that cannot improve the health and well being of their users, so there are concerns that people are being wrongly diagnosed and in turn risking their health.
In terms of dieting apps, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have found that very few of the apps use effective weight loss methods.
Experts recommend health apps that use food logging and reminders to drink water and exercise, such as MyFitnessPal, but they’re only really effective when used in conjunction with traditional dieting methods (exercise, dieting groups etc).
However, a new study suggests that there is an opportunity for these apps to effectively improve the health of their users, but more research on how to boost their effectiveness needs to be conducted. At the moment, the apps don’t work long-term mainly because users don’t use the app long enough to see long-term effects. Users also have privacy concerns and are often worried their private health information could be passed on.
But it’s not all bad news. Experts recommend to stay away from diagnosis and treatment apps for now, but the fitness and weight loss apps aren’t a complete waste of time. Unfortunately there is no solid evidence confirming the accuracy of health apps and their effectiveness will continue to be questioned. However, researchers and health care professionals are positive about where they are going.