Smartphone fitness apps and wearable activity trackers can help boost physical activity levels, according to an analysis published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine .

Researchers conducted a review and pooled data on the available evidence to study the impact of such devices and apps on improving physical activity levels, which in turn can have a positive impact on the overall health of individuals.

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"Interventions using smartphone apps or activity trackers seem promising from a clinical and public health perspective, promoting a significant step count increase of 1850 steps/day," wrote the researchers.

The researchers looked for databases from relevant studies published between January 2007 and January 2020, involving healthy 18- to 65-year-olds with no long-term conditions and found 35 suitable comparative studies, involving a total of 7,454 people. Of these, 28 per cent were women.

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They then pooled the data from 28 of these studies to show that when compared with other approaches, smartphone apps or activity trackers helped increase physical activity by an average of 1,850 steps a day.

Significant increase

“Seven further additional analyses of the data also showed that smartphone apps and activity trackers significantly increased physical activity levels,” according to an official release published in Eurekalert!

The apps and devices that included text-messaging involving prompts and cues, and tailored features, were found to be more effective. Features such as goal setting, planning, and tasks graded by degree of difficulty, were significantly associated with greater levels of effectiveness.

"These results are of public health importance, according to recent evidence showing that any physical activity, regardless of intensity, is associated with lower mortality risk in a dose-response manner and that an increase of 1,700 steps/day is significantly associated with lower mortality rates," the researchers said.

"Given the wide and increasing reach of smartphones, even modest improvements in physical activity can produce large effects at the population level,” they added.