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Public Health Guidelines for Physical Activity: Is There an App for That? A Review of Android and Apple App Stores
JMIR mHealth uHealth
  • Emily Knight, Western University
  • Melanie I Stuckey, Western University
  • Harry Prapavessis, Western University
  • Robert Petrella, Western University
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Publication Date
URL with Digital Object Identifier
doi: 10.2196/mhealth.4003

BACKGROUND: Physical activity participation is an important behavior for modifying lifestyle-related disease risk. Mobile health apps for chronic disease management and prevention are being developed at a rapid rate. However, it is unclear whether these apps are evidence-based. Current public health recommendations for physical activity participation for adults highlight the importance of engaging in 150 minutes weekly of purposeful exercise, and muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days of the week.

OBJECTIVE: The aims of the present review were to (1) identify available evidence-based physical activity apps, and (2) identify technological features that could be leveraged to improve health outcomes.

METHODS: iTunes and Google Play mobile app stores were searched using keyword and category searching during a single day (February 18, 2014) for physical activity apps available in English. The description pages of eligible apps were reviewed by 4 independent reviewers for evidence-based content, technological, and descriptive features. An a priori subset of apps was downloaded for further review (n=6 affiliated with a non-commercial agency; n=10 top rated; n=10 random selection), and developers were contacted for information regarding evidence-informed content.

RESULTS: The initial search yielded 2400 apps, of which 379 apps (n=206 iTunes; n=173 Google Play) were eligible. Primary results demonstrated no apps (n=0) adhering to evidence-based guidelines for aerobic physical activity, and 7 out of 379 implementing evidence-based guidelines for resistance training physical activity. Technological features of apps included social networking (n=207), pairing with a peripheral health device (n=61), and measuring additional health parameters (n=139). Secondary results revealed 1 app that referenced physical activity guidelines (150 minutes/weekly of exercise), and demonstrated that apps were based on various physical activity reports (n=4) or personal expertise (n=2).

CONCLUSIONS: The present study demonstrated a shortage of evidence-based physical activity apps. This gap underscores the need for development of evidence-informed mobile apps. Results highlight the opportunity to develop evidence-informed mobile apps that can be used clinically to enhance health outcomes.

PMID: 25998158
Citation Information
Emily Knight, Melanie I Stuckey, Harry Prapavessis and Robert Petrella. "Public Health Guidelines for Physical Activity: Is There an App for That? A Review of Android and Apple App Stores" JMIR mHealth uHealth Vol. 3 Iss. 2 (2015) p. 43
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