Mobile motivation: Apps embrace active nutrition

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Nutrition & health phone app use is rising around the world. ©iStock
Nutrition & health phone app use is rising around the world. ©iStock

Related tags: Nutrition

Mobile device technology and the range of tools available to track nutritional intake are playing an increased role in maintaining optimal fitness and staying more active. 

These apps have expanded the range of tools available to record and analyse daily food intake and its micronutrient and macronutrient constituents. This breakdown can instantly be compared with calculated nutrition goals.

Now it is not only data collection that is possible but the built-in capabilities of these devices have enabled multi-dimensional data analysis that gives the user additional insights into progress achieved.

The most common example is the use of the global positioning system (GPS) for tracking the amount of physical activity. The device’s camera can be used to recognise foods and estimate portion sizes.

More interestingly the mental aspect of active nutrition is wholly embraced by these apps, which incorporate health behaviour theories and motivational messages to encourage long-term behaviour changes and ‘unlearn’ unhealthy habits.

This mental and motivational aspect extends towards the fitness community. Mobile technology can offer tools that facilitate the supportive process gathering individuals with similar health goals, who can offer words of advice.

“These applications are changing the paradigm of self-monitoring,”​ said Dr Kay Connelly, assistant professor at Indiana University.

“Self-monitoring is changing into a communal, supportive process where multiple people who care about the health of the user can check the user’s progress and give encouraging feedback.”

Leading active app

MyFitnessPal
In Feb last year, MyFitnessPal was bought by Under Armour for €433m ($475m). ©MyFitnessPal

Fitness and nutrition apps such as MyFitnessPal have embraced this concept wholeheartedly. Along with the usual diet tracking and exercise to establish optimal caloric intake and nutrients for the users' objectives, the app also adopts gaming elements to motivate users.

It's use of the MyFitnessPal community also enables the user to share successes with selected contacts and gain access to a dedicated online forum.

According to its page on Google Play the number of downloads was approximately ’50-100 million.’ In November 2014, the app's dedicated blog announced it had been installed by its 75 millionth user, dwarfing similar fitness-minded apps on the market.

“One of the most important and powerful tools that people looking to change their health and fitness lives have is the people around them,”​ it said in one of its blog postings.

“Help begets help. If you are struggling to make those healthy choices, reach out here on these forums and in these comments to the people who are struggling just like you.”

Virtual reality technology

sport runner gym fitness iStock.com Spectral-Design
Studies have shown a virtual coach lowered perceived pressure and tension during exercise.

The popularity of these fitness apps and the prospect of reaching an audience in its millions have led app makers to look to the next ‘big’ thing that will further orient the user’s mindset to one of health.

“Wellness technologies and wellness apps should be designed to motivate users to continue using wellness technology and to achieve their goals,”​ said Dr Aino Ahtinen, postdoctoral researcher at the Tampere University of Technology in Finland.

“For example, there are several attributes that can increase motivation toward physical activity, such as real-time feedback and having a virtual personal trainer.”

Although a relatively new technology, apps such as Runtastic PRO and iWOD Fitness have adopted the ‘virtual’ innovation for a number of years.

Studies​ have shown the immersive environment offered a way to increase the fun aspect and a beneficial effect on motivation, while the virtual coach lowered perceived pressure and tension.

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More information here​.

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1 comment

Fitness and nutrition apps

Posted by Julia,

Nice article! You`re right - Fitness and nutrition apps are great tools! I myself don`t use MFP but YAZIO and it helps me to stay tuned. In addition, it`s free and has a huge database. ( If you`re interested you can download it here https://www.yazio.com/en – I can really recommend it!).
And I can`t agree more, the people around you are so important for your success. Therefor I joined the Yazio group on facebook. This point is really important to me, because I can`t do it on my own.

The virtual reality technology sounds really interesting! I wonder what else will be possible in the future.

Greetings,
Julia

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