With the rising popularity of diet trackers, activity bands, and fitness apps, one survey set out to discover the real health benefits of all this technology

By Ashley Mateo
March 01, 2015
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We're living in the age of fitness apps: Not only can you download helpful trackers to monitor your diet or exercise, new smartphones come with that capability built right into their technology. (Case in point: 5 Fun Ways to Use Apple's New iPhone 6 Health App.) But, is this advent of health-related apps actually helpful? Well, it depends on your starting point.

Turns out, health apps are actually only helpful to those who are already healthy, according to new data. Carnegie Mellon University's Integrated Innovation Institute has been working on an ongoing study, which has surveyed 2,000 men and women, ages 18-34, on topics ranging from financial habits to professional pursuits. Their latest report showed that while 66 percent of people who maintain a healthy diet said they find apps helpful to monitor diet and exercise, 67 percent of people who don't maintain a healthy diet don't find those apps helpful. Translation: health-related apps only help if you're already doing the work to stay healthy.

It makes sense: If you're already inclined to set specific fitness goals and get your daily fix of fruits and veggies, technology that helps you reach those goals would be appealing. But if you're not predisposed to healthy behaviors, downloading an app isn't a magic solution. In fact, a recent study found that fitness trackers could actually be doing you a disservice-by tracking your activity for you, you lose out on an important self-tracking step that enables you to actually modify behavior. So if you're solely relying on a tracker to maintain good health habits, any changes you make might last only as long as you wear that tracker.

Moral of the story: all the technology in the world can't replace a genuine desire to eat healthy and stay in shape.

The study also found that of those people who think about their weight a lot, 60 percent blame their parents (or believe genetics is a dominant factor), and of those who don't think about their weight a lot, only 39 percent blame their family. (Are Parents to Blame for Your Bad Workout Habits? Find out what the experts say.) For more, see the infographic below.