Descriptive Evaluation of Free Exercise Apps and Ability to Promote Physical Activity

Document Type

Article - Open Access

Publication Title

Journal of Exercise Physiology


American Society of Exercise Physiologists

Publication Date


Abstract/ Summary

The purpose of this study was to evaluate free exercise apps available on iTunes and their potential for promoting physical activity. Study investigators identified 153 free exercise apps on iTunes. Written descriptions posted by the app developers were evaluated by two investigators using the enabling and reinforcing components of the Precede-Proceed Health Promotion Model as a guide. Six factors (three enabling and three reinforcing) were evaluated, with one point recorded for each factor included in a particular app. Enabling scores ranged from 0 to 3. One hundred and thirty-four (87.6%) apps included videos or pictures, while 123 apps (80.4%) included written instructions on how to perform exercises. Thirty-eight apps (24.8%) included the ability to track daily exercise. Reinforcing scores also ranged from 0 to 3. Fifty-five (36%) apps interfaced with a social networking site, while 33 (21.6%) provided feedback and support from a personal trainer. Fifteen (9.8%) included rewards for daily exercise. Total scores ranged from 0 to 5. No apps included all six factors. The present study suggests that the majority of exercise apps include videos, pictures, or written instructions on how to exercise. But many apps do not include basic features that may help people to maintain an exercise program, including social support, feedback from a personal trainer, or rewards. Additional research is needed on how exercise apps can be utilized to promote physical activity.