GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Millions of Americans have decided there's an app for that.
A Pew Institute study shows about 10% of all cell phone users say they have a health-related app -- but that doesn't necessarily mean all of those people use those apps.
Anne Bartish started using an exercise app on her cell phone when she realized a big birthday was coming up.
"It keeps tabs on how long you're going and how much you're losing, so it's a good milestone to see if you're on track," said Bartish. "I have noticed I'm starting to lose weight, which is a good thing, and just becoming more fit. It was time to make a change."
Some of the apps have gotten pretty creative trying to make exercise fun. 24 Hour News 8 found one called "Zombie's Run" where the app user becomes part of a story about trying to escape a zombie attack as they run.
"If you head more towards the saw mill, you should be able to see the massive red signs," one segment of the app's story says.
But though the number of health apps available has gone up in recent years, studies show say the number of people actually downloading them has stayed fairly static.
With tens of thousands to choose from, not every app is equal.
"I think anything that gets people interested in health and overall fitness is a good thing," said Saint Mary's registered dietitian Amy Braganini. But, she said, "When I've researched some of the apps, I've found not-so-sound scientific advice and some might be a little dangerous."
They're dangerous, she said, because a company with no medical knowledge could be behind that app and telling users to exercise too hard or not consume enough calories.
"Some of the plans out there might put people on a very low-calorie diet, which might cause them some dangerous electrolyte imbalances, dehydration," said Braganini. "Some of the fitness apps might actually push somebody way too far and too fast, and it might be dangerous from a cardiovascular standpoint."
Braganini recommends people check out the specific diet app they plan to use on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.
It's not just apps that may cause a problem. Video game exercise programs like the X-Box Kinect or the Nintendo Wii might seem like a harmless workout, but they too could be dangerous without proper preparation and clearances from your doctor.
The moral of the story is to research apps and make sure you're healthy enough to start and exercise plan. And in order to get actual results -- and not have it be just another fad diet -- you have to stick with it.
"The apps are great to get started, and maybe get somebody sticking with a regimen, but obviously nothing replaces a one-on-one visit with a registered dietician who can tailor a meal plan fit for you and is scientifically based," said Braganini.
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