Associations between commercial app use and physical activity: Cross-Sectional Study

Jasmine Maria Petersen, Eva Kemps, Lucy K. Lewis, Ivanka Prichard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background: In today’s society, commercial physical activity apps (eg, Fitbit and Strava) are ubiquitous and hold considerable potential to increase physical activity behavior. Many commercial physical activity apps incorporate social components, in particular app-specific communities (allowing users to interact with other app users) or the capacity to connect to existing social networking platforms (eg, Facebook or Instagram). There is a growing need to gain greater insights into whether commercial physical activity apps and specific components of these apps (social components) are beneficial in facilitating physical activity.
Objective: This study aimed to examine the relationship between the use of commercial physical activity apps and engagement in physical activity. The social components of commercial physical activity apps (app-specific communities and existing social networking platforms) were also explored. This involved isolating specific features (eg, sharing, providing, and receiving encouragement, comparisons, and competitions) of app-specific communities and existing social networking platforms that were most valuable in facilitating physical activity.

Methods: A cross-sectional web-based survey was conducted. Participants were 1432 adults (mean age 34.1 years, 1256/1432, 88.00% female) who completed measures assessing physical activity, the use of commercial physical activity apps, and engagement with app-specific communities and existing social networking platforms.

Results: Overall, 53.14% (761/1432) of the sample reported engaging with a commercial physical activity app. The most commonly used apps were Fitbit (171/761, 22.5%), Strava (130/761, 17.1%), and Garmin (102/761, 13.4%). The use of physical activity apps was significantly associated with physical activity. Notably, the use of app-specific communities and existing social networking platforms facilitated significantly greater engagement in physical activity. The features of app-specific communities that were most beneficial in promoting engagement in physical activity were providing encouragement to a partner, receiving encouragement from close friends and family, and engaging in competitions with members of public app-specific communities. In relation to existing social networking platforms, sharing physical activity posts predicted engagement in physical activity.
Conclusions: The findings indicate that app-specific communities and existing social networking platforms are components of apps that are fundamental in facilitating physical activity. They further suggest that commercial physical activity apps afford high population level reach and hold great potential to promote engagement in physical activity, an important public health consideration
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere17152
Pages (from-to)e17152
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Volume22
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

©Jasmine Maria Petersen, Eva Kemps, Lucy K Lewis, Ivanka Prichard. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 03.06.2020.
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on http://www.jmir.org/, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

Keywords

  • physical activity
  • mobile applications
  • social networking

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