If It's Not on Strava It Didn't Happen!: Associations Between Commercial App Use and Physical Activity (Preprint)
Journal of Medical Internet Research
In today's society, commercial physical activity apps (eg, Fitbit and Strava) are ubiquitous and hold considerable potential to increase physical activity behavior. Many commercial physical activity apps incorporate social components, in particular app-specific communities (allowing users to interact with other app users) or the capacity to connect to existing social networking platforms (eg, Facebook or Instagram). There is a growing need to gain greater insights into whether commercial
... r commercial physical activity apps and specific components of these apps (social components) are beneficial in facilitating physical activity. This study aimed to examine the relationship between the use of commercial physical activity apps and engagement in physical activity. The social components of commercial physical activity apps (app-specific communities and existing social networking platforms) were also explored. This involved isolating specific features (eg, sharing, providing, and receiving encouragement, comparisons, and competitions) of app-specific communities and existing social networking platforms that were most valuable in facilitating physical activity. A cross-sectional web-based survey was conducted. Participants were 1432 adults (mean age 34.1 years, 1256/1432, 88.00% female) who completed measures assessing physical activity, the use of commercial physical activity apps, and engagement with app-specific communities and existing social networking platforms. Overall, 53.14% (761/1432) of the sample reported engaging with a commercial physical activity app. The most commonly used apps were Fitbit (171/761, 22.5%), Strava (130/761, 17.1%), and Garmin (102/761, 13.4%). The use of physical activity apps was significantly associated with physical activity. Notably, the use of app-specific communities and existing social networking platforms facilitated significantly greater engagement in physical activity. The features of app-specific communities that were most beneficial in promoting engagement in physical activity were providing encouragement to a partner, receiving encouragement from close friends and family, and engaging in competitions with members of public app-specific communities. In relation to existing social networking platforms, sharing physical activity posts predicted engagement in physical activity. The findings indicate that app-specific communities and existing social networking platforms are components of apps that are fundamental in facilitating physical activity. They further suggest that commercial physical activity apps afford high population level reach and hold great potential to promote engagement in physical activity, an important public health consideration.