Apps helped people stay fit – and stressed – during pandemic

Fitness trackers on mobiles helped people stay healthy during pandemic lockdowns, but the devices also added stress with information overload about COVID-19, a study has found.

An article published in the latest issue of the journal PLOS Digital Health examines how technology was used around the world at the height of the pandemic between July and September 2020.

People who used fitness apps during lockdowns were more likely to exercise. Credit:iStock

An international team, led by University of Sydney PhD candidate Huong Ly Tong, surveyed more than 500 people from 32 countries and found 83 per cent used apps to stay active.

“The study found people who used mobile apps were more likely to be more active,” Tong said.

“This demonstrates that technology can play an important role in helping to promote healthy behaviours, even during the unique circumstances of the pandemic.”

About a third of people surveyed in the study, mostly Australians, said apps also came in handy to manage their mental health.

But the authors also found apps and social media were a double-edged sword.

“On one hand, these apps helped people maintain a sense of normalcy, to stay active and connected,” said University of Sydney senior researcher Dr Liliana Laranjo.

“But at times, they also had a negative emotional impact when people felt exposed to too much information about COVID-19 online or when they felt they weren’t meeting their fitness goals on trackers.”


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