NIU Researchers Will Test Health App Effectiveness

Sep 27, 2017

Northern Illinois University health and computer science researchers want to test how a fitness app they developed works.

Credit Flickr user Leonardo Angelini / "#fitness" (CC V 2.0)

Researchers say they hope to have 100 people participate in the test. The eight-week study looks at how fitness apps and health behavior may be connected.

Participants would download the app to their phones, use it when they work out, and see how effective it is. The features would be adjusted continually by researchers.

NIU computer science professor Philippe Giabbanelli says another part of the study is to find which feature combinations are the most effective for a fitness app. He says the plan is to set a research precedent for similar apps that may be developed in the future.

“The goal here is not to essentially make money,” Giabbanelli said, "but the goal is to have an app that can be used by people and that’s going to be maintained over time."

NIU health professor Lynn Herrmann says a lot of apps track health and fitness behaviors or connect users to social media, but those aren’t necessarily based on research or health theory.

“So we are seeing if that works," Herrmann said, "instead of people who want to make a fitness app making a fitness app."

Herrmann says the app is available only for the Android operating system because of higher costs to make it available in the Apple App Store as well. Giabbanelli says it is easier to monitor the results without having to worry about the two platforms crossing.

Herrmann and Giabbanelli say they hope to have data from the study by Thanksgiving.