KEY POINTS

  • A survey was conducted on the effect of healthy lifestyle technologies
  • Young people are using fitness apps to achieve a muscular and fitter body
  • Some confess that it can lead to anxiety or paranoia

A recent survey showed some young people were using the internet in their pursuit of a fitter or a muscular body.

U.K. researchers recently conducted a survey on the effect of healthy lifestyle technologies, including social media and apps, for young people. In their report called "Digital Health Generation," they warned about young people's use of fitness trackers in their quest for getting a fitter or nicer body. They said that while the app is possibly motivating, it could also lead to obsessive behavior.

The research, which was co-authored by Professor Emma Rich from the Department for Health at the University of Bath in the U.K., suggested that schools should increase their digital literacy education to include matters of health, BBC reported. Prof. Rich said they found lots of participants using apps to track their diet, sleep, menstrual cycle, and heart rate, but in many cases, what the trackers showed did not correspond with how the bodies of the respondents felt.

Rich expressed concern that people were constantly checking their fitness tracking apps, which she said could lead to the development of obsessive behavior in their attempt to get the most likes or shares from their own peers.

"Many spoke of the need for health and fitness apps to come with warning alerts... advising them on when they might be exercising or dieting excessively," she said. fitness tracking app fitness tracking app Photo: StockSnap/Pixabay

Researchers also noted the use of fitness and health apps could contribute to some young people exercising too much or engaging in dangerous dietary practices. Some respondents recognized the need to limit using the apps, saying such technology should be able to recognize when users needed to stop.

Jack Bardzil, a 19-year-old student from Bath and one of the respondents, said fitness apps and trackers could make people paranoid.

"There are heartbeat monitors and in the future, they might have glucose monitoring... these things can lead to paranoia," he told researchers. Bardzil also added that the way social media platforms oftentimes promote content based on the users’ previously-viewed material felt unsettling "as they can keep shoving it down your throat."

Tom Madders, the director of Communications, Campaigns, and Participation at the mental health charity YoungMinds, said that while tracking your fitness is a positive experience, it could also lead to negative mental health consequences when the user is already overzealous in using it.

"For some young people, fitness trackers may exacerbate disordered eating and exercise, and they must be designed in a way that minimizes the risks - for example, by not bombarding people with notifications," he also stated, according to BBC.