Fitness, health gadgets and apps plagued by low adoption

By BenefitsPro

By Dan Cook

The world is being flooded with apps, and most people can’t get through the day without using their faves. But when it comes to fitness or health monitoring apps, the potential envisioned by their creators has yet to be fulfilled.

Survey data from Keas, provider of corporate wellness plans, offers some insight into why such apps have yet to attract wide followings.

Keas said 83 percent of the nearly 500 people engaged in company wellness plans it surveyed have used either a fitness app or body tracking device to enhance their health. So the curiosity is clearly there. But when it comes to drilling down and finding out how many folks routinely use such apps, the numbers drop dramatically.

These apps fall under the heading of “qualified self-movement” products, which also include “gadgets” — actual hard-material products as opposed to the virtual apps for phones, computers and other devices.

When asked whether they used apps or gadgets to gather and/or monitor health or fitness data, 38 percent said they didn’t know what they were or didn’t care to find out. Asked specifically about apps for health/fitness purposes, 45 percent said they didn’t use them. When asked about gadgets only, 76 percent said they didn’t use them.

The Keas data tends to support other studies that have reported a very slow adoption of health/fitness gadgets and apps. Citing research by the Pew Foundation, the online resource had this to say:

“With thousands of new apps, and dozens if not hundreds of new medical tracking devices released in the last two years, the total number of Americans using them barely grew. According to Pew, the number of people using apps on their phones to track health has only increased from 9 percent in 2011 to 11 percent in 2012.”

This, despite an increase in smartphone ownership from 33 percent to 53 percent from 2011 to 2012.

“Smartphone adoption is growing quickly … but the number of people using technology to track their health appears flat, and the total market for fitness tracking devices is tiny,” said.

Keas did ask the respondents who use apps and gadgets to identify their preferred ones and why they use them. “Those who have used one or the other did so primarily to improve their overall health (38 percent) while a smaller percentage (29 percent) did so to lose weight. Another 22 percent said they were simply curious about health data,” Keas reported.

In general, respondents said they go for apps/gadgets in three main categories:
  • Body analyzing devices that measure weight, fat, blood-pressure, etc. (47 percent);
  • Body tracking devices that don’t have to be worn as a bracelets (24 percent);
  • Gaming consoles or accessories that provide distraction during a workout (16 percent).
My Fitness Pal was the most popular of the specific apps and gadgets named by respondents. Others mentioned included RunKeeper and Weightwatchers apps and itBit and Nike body tracking devices.

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