Understanding the Role of Healthy Eating and Fitness Mobile Apps in the Formation of Maladaptive Eating and Exercise Behaviors in Young People

Roisin Mcnaney, Mahsa Honary*, beth bell, Sarah Clinch, Sarah Wild

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

Abstract

Background: Healthy eating and fitness mobile apps are designed to promote healthier living. However, for young people, body dissatisfaction is commonplace, and these types of apps can become a source of maladaptive eating and exercise behaviors. Furthermore, such apps are designed to promote continuous engagement, potentially fostering compulsive behaviors.
Objective: The aim of this study was to identify potential risks around healthy eating and fitness app use and negative experience and behavior formation among young people and to inform the understanding around how current commercial healthy eating and fitness apps on the market may, or may not, be exasperating such behaviors.
Methods: Our research was conducted in 2 phases. Through a survey (n= 106) and 2 workshops (n= 8), we gained an understanding of young people’s perceptions of healthy eating and fitness apps and any potential harm that their use might have; we then explored these further through interviews with experts (n= 3) in eating disorder and body image. Using insights drawn from this initial phase, we then explored the degree to which leading apps are preventing, or indeed contributing to, the formation of maladaptive eating and exercise behaviors. We conducted a review of the top 100 healthy eating and fitness apps on the Google Play Store to find out whether or not apps on the market have the potential to elicit maladaptive eating and exercise behaviors.
Results: Participants were aged between 18 and 25 years and had current or past experience of using healthy eating and fitness apps. Almost half of our survey participants indicated that they …
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14239
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Volume7
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2019

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