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To App or Not To App: the Problem with Relying on Mobile Fitness Apps

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Apple’s App Store has tens of thousands of health and fitness apps for sale, many of which are also designed to sync up with fitness wearables like Jawbone or the FitBit. There are apps to track diet, apps to track blood pressure, apps to prepare you for a marathon and apps to help you lose weight.

The big question is this: does more data help people lose weight and stay healthy? Overwhelmingly, the answer is no. A study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that most mobile health and fitness apps fall short when it comes to creating lasting change. Even an old-school food journal is more effective 95 percent of the time.

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Here’s the problem. Almost all of the fitness mobile apps tested focused on information, and information can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to do with it. Few of the apps tested offered instructions to users, and most scored less than 40 points out of 100 on usability. What good is data if you don’t know what to do with it?

Many mobile fitness apps fail to address some of the most important issues for weight loss: stress reduction, portion control and the emotional issues behind why we eat. Most people’s health issues aren’t so easily quantifiable. More data just isn’t what’s needed. What good is an app when you’re feeling lousy and craving a cheeseburger?

Most of us – particularly those of us in the smartphone-carrying demographic – already know what they should be doing to improve their health. Eat less. Consume more plant-based foods. Cook more. Hit the drive-thru less. Cut down on the soda, alcohol and tobacco.

These are not revolutionary ideas. Getting healthy isn’t all that complicated. The really critical issue is, what’s holding you back from doing what you know you should be doing? Seth Godin calls it “the lizard brain” – that fearful voice in your head that tries to bully you out of being your most creative, empowered self.

Other teachers have called it other things: the monkey brain, the ego, etc. Point is, we all have it and we all need to face it at some point if we want to get healthy. So instead of downloading yet another fitness app and swamping yourself in data, try one of these apps that will help you overcome limiting beliefs and wipe out your lizard brain.

3 Apps That Help You Get Over Yourself Start Getting Fit

1. EFT Clinic by Naked Buddha: Though EFT has been around for a few decades, it’s just now gaining popularity as a cure for all sorts of limiting beliefs (I’ll always be overweight, I’m addicted to chocolate bars, exercise is too hard/boring/time-consuming, etc.).  The app teaches users how to do it, why to do it, and offers a series of scripts for overcoming things like cigarette addiction, weight problems and so on.

2. Inner Balance by Institute of HeartMath: The Institute teaches the state of “coherence,” the union of heart and mind through a simple breathing technique and a regular gratitude practice. This app teaches users to change their reaction to stress, to shift moods and create a positive outlook. It also allows users to track progress and share accomplishments with others.

3. iDoser: iDoser uses binaural beats to sync up brainwaves for anything from an orgasm to a drug trip – all through the power of sound. What it can also do is make your brain simulate the kinds of emotions that are essential to spiritual, physical and mental health: alertness, concentration and happiness, for example. Next time you’re feeling too lethargic to get your butt to the gym, consider a dose of binaural beats.

Still determined to prove that  fitness apps are the way to go? Greatist produced a list of the Top Health and Fitness Apps for last year, which organises the best apps by category, including fitness and strength training, diet and nutrition, and overall wellness.

Some unconventional mobile fitness apps are also breaking the mold. The Walk is a good example. Last year, Pacific Prime listed Zombies! Run 5K as one of our top apps of 2013. This year the same developer has released The Walk. The Walk is more or less a souped up audiobook, telling the thrilling story of Walker, a man trying to deliver a mysterious package. The app tracks daily steps and activity, unlocking a new chapter with each new activity-based milestone.

Consider the source before you jump right on board with an app. Would you take health advice from Walgreens or WebMD? Do you think Nike really has your best health in mind when they create fitness apps?

Lastly, always remember that the best source of information is your own intuition. You have everything you need to live a healthy lifestyle, lose the extra weight, turn your mood around and enjoy a beautiful life. When your desire is strong enough, you will find a way, app or no app.

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