Are Smartphones the New Personal Trainers?

A new study says that one in three people use their smartphone to stay healthy.

smartphoneSmartphone image via Shutterstock

Earlier this year, I wrote a story about my relationship with my smartphone that I use to track my health and it took me to some squishy emotional territory. As I entered more and more data points into my phone, I began to wonder what it would be like to have a small device know more about my health habits than my own husband. And it looks like more of us may soon begin dealing with those same questions. At the time when my piece came out, about 17 percent of smartphone users had begun using their phones to track their health. But now that number has almost doubled, according to new research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. In the study, 31 percent of Americans have used a smartphone to get advice for their health, and about 19 percent of smartphone users have an app that helps them track their weight, exercise, or food intake. So who are these users? Pew found a variety of factors:

A person’s likelihood to use their cell phone to look for health information is amplified by each of the[se] characteristics: youth, having a higher level of education, living in a higher-income household, being Latino, being African American, and owning a smartphone. Each of these observations holds true under statistical analysis isolating each factor. In other words, it is not just that smartphone owners are likely to be younger than other American adults and both groups are likely to use their phones to look up health information. Each characteristic has an independent effect on mobile health information consumption.

They also found that those who recently experienced a life-changing health event, experienced a medical crisis or significant weight loss, or those who act as caregivers were more inclined to depend on smartphones for health care info. Among app users, they found 38 percent track their exercise, 31 percent monitor their diet, and 12 percent use an app to manage their weight.

Do you use a smartphone for health and fitness? What are your favorite apps?