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Does Your Weight-Loss App Really Work?


There really is an app for practically everything these days, and the weight loss and fitness categories are flooded with downloads for apps that help you track your calories, steps, and sleep. And of course there are actual workout apps with videos you can follow along with, as well as Tabata and LISS timers—the list goes on. With all those options, it's probably safe to say your smartphone has become just as essential to your healthy living as your favorite pair of running shoes. That's why the findings of one recent study are so disheartening for many fit techies. According to new research presented at the European Obesity Summit, weight-loss apps might not be as effective as you thought (or hoped).

A team of researchers from Europe and the U.K. scoured iTunes and Google Play to identify the current library of weight-loss apps using the keywords "weight," "weight-management," and "calorie." In total, they found more than 3,000 relevant apps with more than 600 million downloads among them. They also recorded the price, frequency of downloads, and consumer rating data for each.

Among those identified, only 17 (which amounts to less than 1 percent) had actually been created by a certified health organization or university, which casts major doubt on the other apps' credibility, concluded researchers. To date, there hasn't actually been any scientific research linking the use of these kinds of apps to weight loss among their users. (What about weight-loss apps that could make you money? That might be a different story.)

The bottom line? Apps should act as a helping hand in your effort to lose weight, get fit, or maintain a healthy lifestyle. But relying too much on their tech might mislead you into believing you can lose weight while on your phone. Instead, power down for a bit and get outside for a bike ride or hit the treadmill. Following a fitness plan that focuses on a research-backed balance of exercise and healthy eating with help from a few smart fitness apps will set you up for success.