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Jacobs J Community Med. 2016;2(1). pii: 021. Epub 2016 Feb 11.

A Review of Smartphone Applications for Promoting Physical Activity.

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Department of Community Health and Sustainability, Division of Public Health, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, MA.
SISTAAH Talk Breast Cancer Support Group, Miami, FL.
Institute of Public and Preventive Health, Georgia Regents University, Augusta, GA.
Educational & Collaborative Technology Center, Georgia Regents University, Augusta, GA.
Institute of Public and Preventive Health, Georgia Regents University, Augusta, GA; Department of Family Medicine, Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Regents University, Augusta, GA.



Rapid developments in technology have encouraged the use of smartphones in health promotion research and practice. Although many applications (apps) relating to physical activity are available from major smartphone platforms, relatively few have been tested in research studies to determine their effectiveness in promoting health.


In this article, we summarize data on use of smartphone apps for promoting physical activity based upon bibliographic searches with relevant search terms in PubMed and CINAHL.


After screening the abstracts or full texts of articles, 15 eligible studies of the acceptability or efficacy of smartphone apps for increasing physical activity were identified. Of the 15 included studies, 6 were qualitative research studies, 8 were randomized control trials, and one was a nonrandomized study with a pre-post design. The results indicate that smartphone apps can be efficacious in promoting physical activity although the magnitude of the intervention effect is modest. Participants of various ages and genders respond favorably to apps that automatically track physical activity (e.g., steps taken), track progress toward physical activity goals, and are user-friendly and flexible enough for use with several types of physical activity.


Future studies should utilize randomized controlled trial research designs, larger sample sizes, and longer study periods to establish the physical activity measurement and intervention capabilities of smartphones. There is a need for culturally appropriate, tailored health messages to increase knowledge and awareness of health behaviors such as physical activity.


Exercise; Health Promotion; Obesity; Physical Activity; Randomized Controlled Trials; Smartphone Applications


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