A leading computer scientist has warned that apps that help count steps may do more harm than good since they stray users towards unrealistic goals which can be demotivating when not accomplished.
While the step counting apps have taken over the fitness world with over a billion downloads, Dr Greg Hager suggests that out of about 165, 000 healthcare apps, ‘very few’ are based on any scientific evidence. Citing a survey of hundreds of mental health apps used for coaching and diagnosis, only five were found to be evidence based, he said before adding that those five were research tools not available to general public.
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While speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the John Hopkins University scientist singled out apps that promote 10, 000 steps goal and stressed that there was no minimum limit. "Some of you might wear Fitbits or something equivalent, and I bet every now and then it gives you that cool little message 'you did 10,000 steps today’.”
"But why is 10,000 steps important? What's big about 10,000?,” he asked. “Turns out in 1960 in Japan they figured out that the average Japanese man, when he walked 10,000 steps a day burned something like 3,000 calories and that is what they thought the average person should consume so they picked 10,000 steps as a number.”
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"But is that the right number for any of you in this room? Who knows? It's just a number that's now built into the apps,” he said. "I think apps could definitely be doing more harm than good. I am sure that these apps are causing problems.”
Dr Hager emphasised that "without any scientific evidence base, how do you know that any of these apps are good for you? They may even be harmful.”
"We all know that probably the more you exercise, the better it is for you. But if you are elderly or infirm then this is not going to be good for you," he added.
This article originally appeared on the Independent.