There’s an App for That – The Pros and Cons of Popular Health Apps for Mobile Devices

It has been reported that 15% of adults with mobile phones use health-related applications on their phones. It is also estimated that 17% of individuals who have cell phones look up information on their phones regarding health. It is obvious that many people are conscious of fitness and nutrition, and mobile devices have become a handy tool in keeping track of daily eating and exercise. With so many health and nutrition apps out there, how is it possible to keep track of them all and pick the right one? Below are some of the most popular health and nutrition-related apps that are used, and the pros and cons of each.

 

MyFitnessPal

Pros?

  • Convenience – This app has a food database of over 3,282,000 different foods to choose from, customized recipes can be added, and food can be logged from anywhere. Foods can even be scanned into the app where the nutrition facts can be viewed.
  • Flexibility – MyFitnessPal makes it possible to create a plan to fit personalized needs, as well as including recommendations from a doctor or dietitian.
  • Awareness – Research demonstrates that those who record their food intake will achieve greater weight loss than those who don’t.
  • Macromolecules – It tracks macronutrients in a very simple and easy to read pie chart. Users can easily identify if they are on track for their carbohydrate, protein and fat goals.

Cons?

  • Low Recommendations – This app often under-recommends calories, for example suggesting a 1300-1400 daily caloric intake for individuals attempting to lose weight. A calorie deficit this low is likely not sustainable.
  • Technical Problems – Sometimes when you scan the barcode of a product the app cannot find it, or a user is unable to edit certain amounts of food consumed (Ex: if a food choice is 8 oz. but you didn’t eat all of it, you cannot change the amount).
  • Too Focused on Calories: Some argue that such a heavy focus on calories isn’t a healthy behavior. The app fails to highlight the importance of other important nutrients.

LoseIt

Lose It!

Pros?

  • Challenges: There are a variety of challenges to motivate you towards achieving your weight loss goals. For example, Active April is an individual challenge with over 10,000 participants where you aim to log 1800 minutes of exercise between April 1st and April 30th.
  • Location: Using the GPS on your phone, it allows you to find local restaurants and make an educated decision about where you eat.
  • Social Aspect: The app allows you to connect with other people, whether they are friends or strangers, who are trying to achieve similar nutritional goals. This provides a support system to help during challenging times.
  • Not as Calorie Restricting: Other apps tend to put extreme calorie restrictions on daily allowances but this application has a higher recommended-caloric intake to make weight loss a healthier and more sustainable process.
  • Activity Recording: Using your location and movements of your phone you are able to keep track of your total steps throughout the course of a day.

Cons?

  • Terminology: The term “budget” has a negative connotation and focuses more on calorie counting rather than consuming a substantial amount of nutrient dense foods.
  • Limited Breakdown: It only separates consumed foods into protein, carbohydrates and fats, while other apps provide a further breakdown (i.e. fats broken down into saturated and trans. fats).

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Fitbit

Pros?

  • Variety: There are a variety of Fitbit brands you can purchase which allows you to pick the best band suited for your lifestyle.
    • Alta: This Fitbit has a smaller band and tracks all of the basics for anyone who is interested in their activity.
    • Charge: This Fitbit has a larger band, but also tracks heart rate, floors climbed, and has the ability to track a single workout.
  • Convenient: The Fitbit is extremely lightweight and easy to wear. It also holds a charge for several days and has a relatively fast recharging time.
  • Friendly Reminders: The Fitbit sends reminders once an hour to stand up and move, and also sends motivational sayings to help you reach your daily goal.
  • Accessible: The Fitbit syncs with most phones in order to receive text messages and phone calls. It can also vibrate for an alarm.
  • Food Database: Within the Fitbit, is a food database with over 40,000 different foods which can help users easily identify foods consumed throughout the day.

Cons?

  • High Cost: While other smartphone apps are free, the Fitbit can come at a high cost (some as high as $200.00). This restricts the population that can purchase these bands based on their financial stability.
  • Easy to Lose: Since the band is relatively small, it is easy to forget where you put it. It would be a shame to lose this expensive item and have to buy a new one.
  • Limited Activity Tracking: The Fitbit does not track all types of physical activity such as cycling, swimming and weight lifting.
  • Wear and Tear: The FitBit is waterproof but not water resistant and it is easily damaged if you jump into a pool to start a swimming workout or are stuck in an unexpected rainstorm.

 SuperTracker

SuperTracker

Pros?

  • Shows Empty Calories: All foods in their data base show you the “empty calories” which is determined by the solid fat calories and added sugar calories.
  • Highlights Food Groups: It breaks down food groups into an easy to read graph and as you consume a food in each group the bar raises to show when you have reached the suggested daily recommendations.
  • Specificity: The mobile website has a place that breaks the typical serving size into increments, allowing you to be more specific about the amount of food you have consumed.
  • Goal Setting: There is a section of the website which allows you to set five personal goals for yourself. It will then send you motivational articles and tips to help support you toward achieving your goals.
  • Easy Access: Since this is only a mobile version of the SuperTracker website, it allows you to keep track of your personal information from anywhere. It is easy to log into your account from your phone, iPad or computer!

Cons?

  • Internet Access: You must have internet access to work the website. If you are not in a free WiFi location you may face the risk of being charged for going over your monthly data usage.
  • Lacking in Food Options: When compared to the MyFitnessPal which features over 3,000,000 food choices, this database only contains about 8,000 foods.
  • No Brand Name Foods: While it is very easy to search common store items like an apple or bagel, it is difficult to find common brand name foods or popular chain restaurants.

watch

Apple Watch

Pros?

  • Compatible with all Apple Products: It syncs easily with phones, iPads, and computers giving easy access to the user.
  • Pairs with Phone: Calls and text messages can be synced with the watch so that users can stay up-to-date with their messages without using their phone.
  • Motivational Reminders: The watch reminds you to stand up and walk every so often. It also will send you reminders to reach your daily goal.
  • Activity: The watch is a great calculator for steps, active calories burned, heart rate sensor, and distance traveled.
  • Apps: Any app can be downloaded onto the watch. For instance, if you wanted to track your sleep, you can download the app and it will be tracked.

Cons?

  • High Cost: While some apps are free, the Apple watch starts $269.00.
  • Active Calories: Apple watches only take into consideration the active calories expended that day. Other devices calculate total calories expended which includes your basal metabolic rate and active calories.
  • Wear and Tear: While the device can have an occasional drip of water on it, it will be damaged if fully submerged in water.

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References:

Pew Research Center

MyFitnessPal Picture

FitBit Picture

LoseIt! Picture

SuperTracker

 Apple Watch

MyFitnessPal Chart

 

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Gym Management App  |  February 13, 2017 at 5:04 am

    Best blog. It’s really good information. Everybody wants to set up the healthy body and this blog is very helpful. Thank you so much for sharing wonderful post. Good information and good research. It is helpful.

  • 2. Virginia Tech Dining Services Administration  |  February 13, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    Thank you for your feedback! We are glad you enjoy reading our blog.

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