(editor’s disclosure: Nudge and InBody have entered into a formal partnership, the details of which are posted here)
Have you ever downloaded a fitness app only to fiddle with it for a day or two and then never open it again?
Don’t freak out, I’m not watching you. A growing body of survey data suggests I wasn’t exactly going out on a limb with that question.
In fact, a recent survey suggests that nearly 60% of all smartphone owners have downloaded at least one fitness app.
Wearables are probably more mainstream than you’d think as well. Here’s a fun experiment for you: Walk into any group of people and ask them to raise their hand if they own a wearable. Odds are (at least) 20% of your little cohort will reach for the sky.
The market has spoken. American consumers believe that health tracking apps and wearables can be useful tools for helping them manage and improve their health and wellness. But for now, the jury is still out on just how impactful these technologies will be overall population health.
The good news is that wearable technology has evolved beyond nascency to become more advanced, refined, and user-friendly: thus more valuable. Case-in-point, the InBody BAND and its ability to measure body composition from the wrist – an incredibly useful outcome measurement – to have along with the more traditional lifestyle metrics like activity and sleep.
And the not-so-good-news: for all too many of the people who really need to make a change in their lives to improve their health, a wearable alone may not be enough.
Why Apps And Wearables Aren’t Always Enough
It is wonderful news that we are flocking in record numbers to fitness apps and wearables, but that isn’t the whole story.
According to a national survey conducted by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center in the US, of the 58% of all smartphone owners who have downloaded a fitness app, just over half have continued using them for a meaningful amount of time. And perhaps even more telling is the fact that 42% of those same respondents reported that they have downloaded and tried out five or more fitness apps.
Isn’t that an amazing number? To me, this makes it pretty clear that a significant number of us strongly believe that mobile health technologies – like fitness apps and wearables – can be useful tools that give us a better chance to meet our personal health goals.
The only problem is, I think these numbers also hint at the fact that technology alone isn’t always enough to get us through the trickiest barriers that life throws at us when we’re trying to make a change in our lives for good. In other words, mobile health technologies have an attrition problem.
But is there any strategy we can point to that has shown it WILL help us move the needle over the longer term?
The Impact of a Connected Health Professional
The user-base of the Nudge Health Tracking app – an app for iOS and Android that lets you sync up data from a number of leading health tracking technologies (like the InBody BAND) and connects you with a health professional who can monitor your data and provide ongoing feedback to you through the app (NOTE: health professionals can manage their clients on Nudge using this platform) – provides us with a unique opportunity to take a closer look at aggregate data on mobile health users, and see what happens when we add just one more piece to the mobile health puzzle – a connection with a health professional.
Would a simple connection with a health professional looking at our health tracking data have an impact on our attrition problem?
To find out, we were able to compare the usage and engagement of two separate groups of Nudge app users over their first 120 days (4 months) using the app:
(1) those who are using mobile health alone (either syncing data from apps and wearables or simply manually tracking lifestyle habits in Nudge), versus
(2) those who are using mobile health and are connected with a health professional via the app.
The results were promising to say the least. We found that after 4 months of using the app, those who connected with a health professional were not some small percentage more likely to still be actively engaged in tracking their lifestyle, but in fact were 3.3 times more likely to still be actively engaged in mobile health.
Not only did the attrition problem go away, but so did the weight. Users working with a health professional actually lost an average of 4.5 times more weight over the 120 days than those using mobile health alone.
The more data we looked at, the more our simple hypothesis was confirmed … using mobile health with the guidance of a health professional is a way to significantly increase your chances of success.
Advice To Help You Succeed (And Keep Your Sanity)
People sometimes say “it’s better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all.” I certainly believe in that statement, but it’s always bugged me that it feels so final, even a little defeatist. Where is the next step?
If you’ve told yourself this over and over again, let me suggest an alternative motto to tell yourself (that I’ve mostly borrowed from Theodore Roosevelt):
“Do what you can with what you have. And with the rest, ask for help.”
Don’t be so hard on yourself when you aren’t sure how to get to your goals. Instead, know that reaching your goals always feels good, whether or not you get there entirely on your own.
Pat yourself on the back for taking little steps in the right direction like packing a healthy lunch, or for getting your heart rate up. Know that you will have days that don’t go so well, and don’t let that cause you to fall off track, or to forget your big picture goals.
Sometimes, it takes a little extra guidance from an expert. Sometimes you simply need an accountability partner to keep you motivated.
Either way, if you aren’t quite sure how you will be able to meet your goals, don’t be too proud to find a health or fitness professional who can help you get there. The statistics I’ve shared with you today suggest that you’ll be glad you did.
If you are a health or fitness professional, there’s something in this information for you too. Consider how you could be leveraging great apps and wearables to help your clients take a more active role in working towards their goals, even when they can’t be with you in-person.
With the right guidance (your guidance) health tracking technologies become much more than cool gadgets, they become valuable tools that empower your clients to continue to take action toward their goals, even when you can’t there in-person to cheer them on.
. . .
Phil Beene is Co-Founder and President at Nudge, a company dedicated to making mobile health data more accessible and usable for health professionals, and more impactful for consumers. Learn more about Nudge’s professional platform at nudgecoach.com, or check out the free Nudge Health Tracking app available in the App Store and Google Play.