When was the last time you “visited” your app store or scrolled through the apps on your mobile device? Weather. News. Social Media. Podcasts. Movies. Games. From staying up to date on the latest world happenings to staying entertained, there seems to be an app that can help us satisfy many of our needs and wants. But what about health? Are there apps that can help us achieve our health goals and support us on our journey to greater well-being? Turns out, there are apps for that too! Here are a few of the research-based benefits of using health-related mobile apps. Click on the links below to learn more.
In adults living with a chronic disease, the use of dietary mobile apps may help reduce caloric intake, weight, and waist circumference (aka waistline) in the short-term (6 months or less). Self-monitoring capabilities, in-app counselling, and the integration of behavioural change theory are common features of apps that lead to successful results (1).
In people with type 2 diabetes, mobile apps for lifestyle modification can help decrease average blood sugar levels in the short-term (3-6 months) and long-term (9-12 months). Folks with type 1 diabetes or pre-diabetes do not appear to benefit in the same way (2).
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one strategy that is easily adaptable to a virtual setting and remote delivery. In community-dwelling older adults with depressive symptoms or disorders, internet-based CBT may reduce depressive symptoms (3). Mobile apps are one way of delivering internet-based CBT.
Gamified smartphone apps are apps that incorporate game-like features. These types of apps may help folks boost their physical activity levels, specifically walking and step count. Common game-like features in apps that lead to success include leaderboards, social networking, and rewards, but more research is needed to solidify which features are best (4).
Things of note: While mobile apps appear to be a promising strategy for improving some aspects of our health and well-being, more research is needed to provide clarity around their long-term effectiveness and safety (1-4). What is more, not all apps are created equal; cost, rigorous testing and evaluation, features, user satisfaction, and more differ across apps. Always research an app and consult your health care team prior to incorporating it into your health and wellness plan.