There are thousands of health apps available for download. For some people, they have become an intrinsic part of their daily routine, checked on a sometimes hourly basis.
Some of these health apps are more comprehensive than others. Whilst some are useful motivation for losing a few pounds or giving your heart a regular workout, many come with negative side-effects. Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t be using health apps:
1. They Make You Anxious
Monitoring your health every minute and every second of the day gives rise to anxiety. This is according to Scottish GP Des Spence writing for the BMJ. Generally healthy people whose health apps encourage them to obsess about their weight, their calorie intake and the number of steps they have taken in any given day are likely to experience negative psychological effects. This could, in time, affect your physical health too.
2. They Aren’t Personalised Enough
Head out with a qualified personal trainer or sit down with a trained physician and they’re likely to take a full medical history before prescribing a course of action. Health apps can’t do this in the same way. Some don’t even ask for your age, height or weight meaning the health advice given is very general and non-specific. The best case scenario is that you achieve nothing with your health app. The worst is that you may do some damage by following a routine unsuited to your own health needs.
3. Data Security
When you share your personal information with a doctor, you can rest assured that your details will remain under the strictest confidence. Using a health app, however, you can’t be so sure. Unless you use some kind of encrypted internet connection you may find that the apps you use are choosing to share your information with third parties. Advertising and analytics companies are able to make use of your data by analysing your health habits and marketing products to you. But, perhaps more worryingly, insurance companies are getting in on the act too. Unless you’re sure that your app isn’t selling your data on to someone else, be very careful about how you use it.
4. They’re Not Always Backed by Medical Knowledge
The people who create apps are great designers, they know what makes people tick and they have the technical know-how to create and market effectively. But do the creators of health apps have medical qualifications? The answer, in a startling number of cases, is no. Unless you’re sure that your app has been created in conjunction with a trained doctor or medical organisation, you can’t know that the advice you’re receiving is medically sound.
5. There’s No Evidence That They Work
Because the majority of health apps are untested and unscientific, there’s no real evidence that they achieve what they set out to do. Are users losing weight? Are they become fitter, healthier and happier? We just don’t know. So whilst your health app might not be doing you any harm, it might not be doing you any good either.
Health apps are an increasing part of our daily experience. They promise to help us in achieving our health goals but we need to tread carefully. It’s necessary to conduct our own research into these apps and make a personal assessment as to how much harm or good they’re doing us in order to judge their worth.