smartphone apps

A new Journal of American Medical Association article has revealed that smartphone apps can effectively improve lifestyle habits among users.


Lifestyle (including physical activity, diet, sleep hygiene, etc.) is one of the most modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Medical statistics demonstrate that physical inactivity accounts for approximately 5% of the burden of cardiovascular diseases.

Considering the lifestyle as one of the most important contributors to cardiovascular health, scientists are looking for effective ways to assess these factors and evaluate their correlation with development of these diseases. To date, studies focusing on lifestyle have used in-person interviews, sleep and exercise studies, which might be under the influence of research coordinators or participants.

A recently published Journal of American Medical Association article has evaluated if a smartphone approach can enhance the study of cardiovascular health–related behaviours by taking advantage of embedded sensor technology to optimize and facilitate data collection.

This prospective study was conducted in the United States and used the MyHeart Counts smartphone application. Researchers have recruited 48 968 participants. These participants downloaded the MyHeart Counts app on their smartphones, recorded their own physical activity and filled out a health questionnaire by using the app for seven days. Those who completed the study also underwent a 6-minute walk test at the end of the study.

Based on the results,  the median age of participants was 36 years. 81.7% of participants updated data on the app. 41.5% completed 4 days of data collection and 9.3 % completed all 7 days of data collection. Physical activity accounted for 14.5% of participants’ time. Results also demonstrated a better cardiovascular health status among those with high activity levels and those with more transitions between active and inactive phases.

Upon the reported findings there was a weak correlation between participants’ activity levels recorded by their smartphones and their perception of activity. The level of physical activity was significantly higher among those with higher overall life satisfaction.

By conducting the present study, authors concluded that large-scale data can be gathered, transferred and analyzed effectively in real time from mobile devices. There are still challenges for the use of smartphones in population-based health studies, such as limitations like rapid drop off of participants from applications.




Written By: Nima Makhdami, M.D.

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