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Even if people aren’t sharing their health and fitness data on social media, just gathering the information can be helpful, experts say, especially for weight loss.
Dietitians like Beth Macias of HealthPartners say certain apps can provide valuable feedback about what people consume after just a few days.
“It gives you a very tailored reflection of what you’re eating and ways to make good changes,” she said.
That feedback has led to success for Kirsten Kaufmann of St. Paul, 10 pounds lighter since she started using an iPhone app called Lose It! She said data is helpful even though it’s strictly “between me and my phone.”
“I can see and track my goal,” said Kaufmann, 49. “It makes me very conscious of what I actually put in my mouth.”
Studies out of the University of South Carolina and Northwestern University both cited accountability as a key reason why social media and apps can further weight loss.
Still, it’s hard to say how many people are actually using the millions of health and fitness apps that have been downloaded. About half of the people who track their health and fitness told Pew they do so informally in their heads. One-third said they use pen and paper.
But Dr. Peter Eckman, a cardiologist at the University of Minnesota, said these apps can sometimes offer people the help they need.
One of Eckman’s heart transplant patients has been walking enthusiastically during his recovery because he found a social “walk to the moon” challenge online. The patient tracks his steps with a pedometer app on his smartphone and enters them online toward the collective goal of more than 477 million steps.
“The social part of this, for him, has really been critical,” Eckman said. “It’s another arrow in the quiver of ways to motivate people and help people maintain motivation themselves.”
Katie Humphrey • 612-673-4758