There is a limited amount of scientific evidence demonstrating that mobile technology, such as smartphone applications, can help people to lead healthier lives. However, this doesn’t mean that these technologies don’t have the potential to be highly effective. This is the main message behind a scientific statement recently published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association (AHA), which deals with the effectiveness of mobile technology in developing and maintaining healthy lifestyle choices.
While one in five adults currently uses some form of technology to help track data about their health, such as apps which count your steps or monitor your heart rate, the body of published studies on the subject is still quite small. For the new AHA statement, the authors reviewed this limited amount of existing research with particular attention to how effective mobile technologies are in helping people to achieve the AHA’s Life’s Simple 7 goals (the top seven easy ways to improve your heart health include managing your weight and being more active).
The statement’s findings may be largely anecdotal, but they seem to indicate that mobile technologies could play an important role in a healthy lifestyle. In particular, the statement found that people who use mobile technology as part of a comprehensive weight loss program were more successful in losing weight over the short term than those who tried to lose weight by themselves, although no data currently exists on whether weight loss was maintained beyond 12 months. Similarly, the statement found that online physical activity programs helped to boost people’s activity levels more than when no program was used. However, it will take more research to determine just how much more wearable physical activity monitors actually help people to move.
While the statement authors agreed that further studies on this subject are needed and encouraged other researchers to take up the challenge of finding supporting evidence, they were also quick to emphasize that people currently using technology in their health routines should absolutely continue to do so if they feel that it’s helpful. For additional guidance in choosing mobile health technology, the statement authors recommend asking a health care provider, dietitian, fitness instructor, or similar expert.