Technology challenges the traditional fitness model

Gabrielle Gentile

When Krista Zolton finishes a workout she knows how many calories she burned, knows how long she worked out and sees a log of all her previous workouts and food diary entries.

Zolton, a junior fashion merchandising major, is one of the growing number of college students using health and fitness-related phone applications to track their fitness levels.

According to Flurry mobile analytics, health and fitness app use grew 62 percent from December 2013 to June 2014.

Zolton started using the fitness app MyFitnessPal when she was a senior in high school as a way to break into the fitness scene.

“It is really nice to have an app that tracks my nutrition, foods, exercise and even gives me workout ideas. I love how MyFitnessPal is all-inclusive. It’s much easier than switching between apps in order to track everything you want to track,” Zolton said. “It’s also nice because it’s right on your phone and I think most people use their phone for music when working out.”

Kent State Student Recreation and Wellness Center Fitness Coordinator Ben Cope believes health and fitness apps are here to stay.

“They will absolutely stand the test of time. The popularity will only get bigger and bigger and the technology is going to become more and more progressive,” Cope said.

According to the Pew Research Center’s report “Mobile Health 2012,” 24 percent of people from ages 18 to 29 have health or fitness apps on their phones.

Cope said part of the popularity of fitness apps among students stems from convenience.

Scott Pedersen, a digital media production major, found new uses for the personal training app InstantFitness.

“I normally use the fitness app at the rec center, but lately I have been just using it in my dorm room because I don’t have the time to get to the rec,” Pedersen said.

Pedersen likes using InstantFitness because of how customizable it is.

“The app has a bunch of pre-set workouts so you can really find what works for you and switch it up when you get used to the same workout,” Pedersen said. “It’s fast and simple and helps you stay consistent with it.”

Cope said while fitness apps are growing in popularity, especially among younger demographics, he does not see them replacing gyms or personal trainers.

“I think they actually increase attendance at the rec center,” Cope said. “The more knowledge people have about health and fitness the more invested they are in the idea of working out.”

Cope also said that, while apps are making it easier and more convenient for the average person to become interested in fitness, there are not the same safety nets in place at home and they can be potentially dangerous without the proper direction.

“I think that sometimes focusing on tracking or logging can interfere with my workout. I catch myself trying to meet a goal so much that I forget to listen to my body and I end up hurting later on,” Zolton said. “It almost starts to feel like an exercise checklist instead of just doing something good for your body.”

If students are working out alone, Cope encourages them to get a physical before they start using a personal training app to avoid injury and help identify underlying medical conditions.

Zolton started using the fitness apps MyFitnessPal and MapMyRun as an introduction to the health and fitness world, but has now integrated it into her daily life.

“I just focus on being healthy and staying active because I’m so busy with school, work, volunteering and extracurricular groups,” Zolton said. “I think that the most important thing is just to try being healthy because if being skinny is your goal, it’s going to lead to some bad choices nutrition wise and in all honesty, you really owe yourself and your body more than that.”

Cope also said the future of fitness technology might be upon us soon, and it might be something far more special than personal fitness trackers on mobile devices and tablets.

“Who knows, the way technology is moving, in 10 years people will probably have virtual personal trainers working with them in their living rooms,” said Cope.

 Gabrielle Gentile is the recreation and fiteness reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]