Are Fitness Apps and Devices safe for everyone?

The world today is more digital than it has ever been before! Smart phones and the associated apps have become an integral part of our work lives, family lives and social lives. People often use fitness apps for exercising these days. Let us take a look at some of the benefits and harms of this trend.

Fitness apps help us exercise better in the following ways:

  • Provide multiple exercise options and range of exercises for individuals who exercise on a regular basis (abdominal exercises, core strengthening, etc)
  • Provide reminders to help us stick to our exercise routine
  • Monitor key parameters like heart rate, steps per day and calorie intake and calorie expenditure and helps keep track of these numbers over time.
  • Help us work on different aspects such as aerobic exercises, strength training, interval training, circuit training and on particular areas like core muscles, upper limbs etc. if necessary

Even though fitness apps and devices help us exercise ourselves without the need for someone to supervise us, there are a few things that we should be aware of before starting to use one of these.

  • Anyone new to exercise should have a medical evaluation for underlying conditions like diabetes, hypertension and obesity as the fitness app or device will not scan for these conditions
  • When beginners indulge in strength training or vigorous intensity exercises without assessing their muscle strength and endurance, it may lead to injury of muscles, ligaments and joints if not done the right way.
  • App-based dietary advice to lose weight or burn more calories are not individualised and safe; hence they can cause excess fatigue, dehydration, fluid imbalance, giddiness and loss of conscious
  • Even though apps may provide illustrations or short videos on how an exercise is to be done, it is always advisable to have a fitness trainer or a physiotherapist to correct you in the early stages

Special advice for heart patients:

While all the benefits and limitations discussed above apply to cardiac patients also, it is important to note that fitness apps, devices and even physical trainers in most commercial gyms are unable to provide a personalized exercise prescription that is effective and safe for your medical condition. They are not trained to assess your heart rate, blood pressure and other symptoms like sweating, breathlessness and chest pain during exercise and this might lead to complications like abnormal heart beat, very high or very low blood pressure, sudden collapse etc. It is mandatory to consult your cardiologist or your cardiac rehab team to understand how to exercise safely and follow their guidance. Initiating the exercise regime under medical supervision and then gradually using relevant apps and devices as an adjunct is advisable.