Research Topic

Use of Smartphone Applications to Increase Physical Activity and Fitness

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About this Research Topic

The contribution of regular physical activity to the prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases has been undeniable. Daily physical activity prevents high blood pressure, obesity and overweight, but also improves mental health and quality of life.

Despite its health benefits, the overall ...

The contribution of regular physical activity to the prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases has been undeniable. Daily physical activity prevents high blood pressure, obesity and overweight, but also improves mental health and quality of life.

Despite its health benefits, the overall progress to reduce physical inactivity worldwide has been modest. Currently, one in four adults and three in four adolescents have not adopted the minimum physical activity recommendations proposed by the World Health Organization.

Recently, technological breakthroughs, such as smart devices, smartphones and their associated applications (apps), have been introduced in the market to engage people in physical activity. Scientific evidence suggests that app-based interventions to improve physical activity and fitness and sedentary behavior are useful, with multi-component interventions being even more effective than app-based interventions alone. The development of applications, based on behavioral change techniques, might contribute to the emergence of cognitive patterns favorable to the practice of physical activity. For that reason, their fundamental components should be personalization and gamification.

Despite their increasing use, smartphone apps for physical activity lack a scientific basis. Among many health and fitness apps, only a few are based on behavioral change techniques. In addition, applications using data science, such as data mining and machine learning, for individualizing physical activity interventions are scarce. The main limitation of the available apps, with or without game elements, is the long-term adherence to app-based interventions. Even with preliminary motivating results, it is still unclear whether or not app-based interventions actually increase the level of physical activity and health.

This Research Topic of Frontiers in Public Health aims to select high-quality research focused on the use of smartphone applications to increase physical activity and fitness. We would like to collect studies that evaluate:
1 - The effects of functionalities for the app based on motivational theories and gamification theories, including but not limited to effective goal-setting, supporting intrinsic motivation, game strategies (gamification) and motivational feedback;
2 - The use of data science techniques such as data mining and machine learning focusing on the personalization strategy by combining big data analysis from mobiles, wearables, and sensors with insight from exercise psychology and gamification;
3 - The determinants of long-term use of smartphone applications for physical activity and related health aspects.

We are particularly interested in articles with results from developing new science-based applications, including behavior change techniques, gamification, social networking, and other strategies. Accordingly, clinical trials evaluating the effects of smartphone applications for physical activity will be highly welcome in this collection, including those conducted using innovative designs with adaptive interventions to promote the long-term use of this technology. Finally, systematic reviews to elucidate which app functionalities can be tailored to individuals and which ones are effective are also welcome.

In all perspectives, we are interested in disseminating research results that elucidate cross-cultural differences between developed and developing countries as to the optimal use, functionality, and effects of smartphone applications to increase physical activity and fitness


Keywords: physical activity, physical inactivity, gamification, fitness applications, health applications


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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