One of the best things you can do for your health is to get exercise. “Walking is man’s best medicine” is a well-known quote from Hippocrates. Centuries later we have several research studies showing the power of movement as medicine. One study specifically compared exercise with popular drugs for heart disease, stroke, and prediabetes to show that exercise can produce comparable results in terms of reducing the risk of death. Recent research also shows the effects even short doses of exercise can have on your mood and creativity. However, if you stop taking a drug and stop exercising, the benefits will also stop.
It is important to find ways to enjoy your workout and get involved
Most people know that exercise is good for their health, but only about half of Americans meet the physical activity guidelines to collect 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.
Nowadays, if you have more fun doing sports, you can use apps on your phone or a fitness tracker, as well as social media websites. Research has shown that there is a link between using commercial apps for physical activity and increased engagement in exercise.
Do certain people respond more favorably to using exercise apps?
A recent study examined the psychological mechanisms involved in using apps to increase exercise levels. The researchers surveyed 1,274 male and female adults between the ages of 18 and 83 and asked them questions online at one point (also known as a cross-sectional study).
The results showed that feelings of social support, self-efficacy (the feeling that a person is competent and can be successful in an activity), identified regulation (the personal value one places on the results of physical activity), and intrinsic motivation ( internal) feelings that pay off after exercise) and being a very competitive person were all attributes associated with using physical activity apps. The study also showed that connecting to existing social media networks, sharing posts, and receiving encouragement increased app users’ sense of social support and increased their confidence and proficiency in their ability to to be successful with exercise can increase. All of these attributes are associated with physical activity.
We need to learn more about apps and exercises for different groups
This study was interesting (and very positive), but since it is a cross-sectional study, we cannot draw any conclusions about causality. This means that we cannot be sure whether using an app will increase the activity you do or your attitude towards sports. We need better designed, randomized, controlled trials to assess how effective physical activity apps are in increasing engagement and maintaining regular exercise in many different types of people. However, current research can help us use apps and social networks to our advantage and increase activity.
Here are some tips to get more moving (with or without apps) and help others with the same goal:
- Research different app options and find out which is best for the activity you enjoy. Invite a friend to join you using the same app.
- If you’re competitive, an exercise app can be a particularly effective strategy for getting you moving and keeping you on track. Many apps use gamification, which keeps you invested and interested in moving forward, meeting goals, and winning awards.
- Social support can have a significant positive impact on physical activity. Use apps with communities or those that can connect to your existing social media platforms to share posts and get feedback.
- Self-efficacy, also known as believing that you can be successful with an activity or exercise, is associated with increased app use and physical engagement. Setting small goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time-critical) helps to increase self-efficacy. Start with a specific, small goal. When you achieve this goal, the reward system in the brain is activated and dopamine is released. Success brings success.
- Think about why it is important to you to be physically active at this point in your life. Make a list of how your life would be different if you were physically active and how it would be improved.
- After training, think about the benefits you will notice: Are you more creative, do you feel like a “runner’s high”, do you feel less stressed, are you more energetic? List the things that you are feeling. These are intrinsic rewards, and when you recognize them as a result of physical activity, associate the reward with exercise. This will help you repeat it over and over again.
- Consider posting about your physical activity on your social media websites. If you see others post about their activity, make an effort to like them, retweet them, or respond with words of encouragement. Social media can be a powerful force for good when we use it that way. Helping each other to be more physically active is a good deed we can do in a day, and it’s just a click away.