Health Apps Could Be Doing More Harm Than Good, Warn Scientists

According to several scientists, fitness apps might be doing more harm than good because they don’t work but force people to focus on ambitious goals that they will never reach. Some are so appalled by these apps that they have called it “snake oil salesmen of the 1860s.” From a report on The Guardian: Greg Hager, professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University, said that in the absence of trials or scientific grounding it was impossible to say whether apps were having the intended effect. “I am sure that these apps are causing problems,” he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Boston. […] Hager claimed the 10,000 steps target dated back to a 1960s Japanese study that showed there were health benefits for men who burned at least 2,000 calories per week through exercise — roughly equivalent to 10,000 steps each day. An early pedometer was known as the manpo-kei, which means “10,000-step meter” in Japanese. “But is that the right number for any of you in this room?” Hager asked. “Who knows. It’s just a number that’s now built into the apps.” “We have an incredible number of apps in the wild basically being downloaded by people who may or may not understand what they are actually telling them or what the context for that is,” he said. “Until we have evidence-based apps you could amplify issues. I mean, imagine everyone thinks they have to do 10,000 steps but you are not actually physically capable of doing that, you could actually cause harm or damage by doing so.”


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