We believe in health apps

Overweight is a worry in most countries.   Apps that can be downloaded to smart phones are a relatively new instrument. These supply information about healthy eating habits and encourage an increase in physical activity.

App users indicated that diet and physical activity apps were affecting not only their behaviour, but also their health consciousness, their knowledge about nutrition and exercising and their social interaction. Apps were felt to be effective in helping to maintain some healthy habits, particularly when used over a longer period, and when diet and physical activity apps were used in combination.

Many of the apps aim to motivate users to eat healthier and exercise more, for example by providing nutrition and training plans, allowing tracking of what you eat and how much you exercise. The apps also allow sharing the results on social media.

PhD candidate Qing Wang at NMBU - the Norwegian University of Life Sciences has studied how the apps work. Her research has recently been published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Group discussions
“Firstly, we carried out three group discussions: two consisting of persons using diet and/or physical activity apps and one consisting of persons not using such programmes. We asked them about their motivation for using such programmes, how they experienced such use, if they considered such apps useful and their general opinions regarding such programmes that are aimed towards better health,” explains Wang. Afterwards, based on these discussions, a questionnaire was prepared and answered by 500 young Norwegian adults. The questionnaire focused in detail on how the use of diet and physical activity apps might lead to a healthier diet and more physical activity.

Can lead to more training

Qing Wang har forsket på vårt forhold til helse- og kostholdsapper.

Qing Wang is a Ph.D. at NMBU

“There is a great potential that diet and physical activity apps can help people achieve a healthier diet and exercise more. The users found such programs useful, and the use of the app can be tied to a healthier behaviour. Many also found the apps fun to use,” says Wang. However the use was seen to be time consuming, something that could demotivate people from using such programmes over a longer period of time. In addition the programmes available today are not tailor-made for an individual. This can also reduce motivation for trying the apps or continuing to use them.

Must be adapted to individuals
There are many diet and physical activity apps available for various devices and operating systems and many of them are most suited for use in the countries where they were developed.  

“The apps have a development potential,” says Wang. “The health authorities in different countries could collaborate with app developers and dealers to design diet and physical activity apps that are suited to different markets. The apps could for example include relevant food products and physical activities for each separate country and possibly even some targeted, tailor-made nutrition and training information,” says Qing Wang.

“As far as we are aware, this is the first survey focusing on Norwegian users and their use of apps aimed at health,” says Professor Bjørg Egelandsdal. She, Marije Oostindjer and Gro Amdam have been supervising Qing Wang.

Apps are relatively new and their usefulness has not been studied in most countries, even though apps are escalating in the market and have been estimated to have a global value of 250  billion NOK in  2015. Indications are that this amount will increase.


Published 31. October 2016 - 18:09 - Updated 23. May 2017 - 19:14