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As more people continue to turn to health apps on their smartphones to help achieve goals related to exercise and weight loss, it’s important to use such tools with an element of personal caution, says Madras physical therapist Brock Monger.
According to a report by the firm Research 2 Guidance, more than 325,000 health apps were available to consumers in 2017. These include popular apps like Strava, Lose It!, Couch to 5K, FitStar Personal Trainer, etc. — apps available to help people achieve goals related to weight loss, healthy eating and improved fitness.
“The emergence of health and fitness apps is definitely a positive development in the health care world as many have been successful in engaging people and empowering them to take on a greater personal role in their health care journeys,” said Monger, co-owner of Apex Physical Therapy in Madras. “That said, even the best fitness apps can’t address everything that’s important when it comes to safely and effectively achieving personal goals.”
The missing ingredient is obvious, Monger added.
“Fitness apps don’t know you — your medical history, your current strengths and weaknesses … how to get you to your goals in a way that’s safe and which takes into consideration the limits of your body and current fitness levels,” Monger said. “Many of these apps are great for helping people track their fitness goals, holding them accountable through reminders and tips, and often providing them with an online support system. But the app’s user is the key to the entire equation.”
With this in mind, Monger provides the following Do’s and Don’ts for safely and effectively using health apps:
DO use apps to track your goals. Whether it’s tracking distance, calories consumed/burned, workout times, etc., this is one of the most effective uses of health apps. And tracking progress only helps in the achievement of goals.
DON’T use apps to set your goals. Set your own goals around something that has meaning to you. Select goals that can be measured at various times with short and long term goals. Don’t let the app determine what your goals should be. You know your body and are aware of your positive progress.
DO use apps for motivation. Being we’re attached to our smartphones throughout the day, apps serve as great motivational tools when trying to stick to a workout regimen. Apps can even connect the user with others for
DON’T let apps push you too far. Listen to your body over your app. If something’s not feeling right, it’s OK to skip today’s Couch to 5K workout. Through pain or discomfort, your body may be telling you to rest, mix in a different type of exercise, or perhaps get checked out by a physical therapist or physician.
DO use apps to help you explore new activities. Apps can certainly make you feel empowered, serving as motivation to try new things — new yoga poses, new core exercises, new activities like running or cycling, etc. But…
DON’T forget to seek professional medical advice before starting something new. As with any new physical activity, it’s important to get assessed by a medical professional, such as a physical therapist, to ensure your body’s equipped to handle the rigors of said activity. Be safe and injury-free when pursuing your goals.
Lastly… DO find ways to be in-tune with your own body. Learn what a good activity pace feels like without checking your technology constantly. Be mindful of yourself, others, and your surroundings — not “checked-out” or “obsessed with data” — to get the whole benefit of the fitness activity.