Fitness trackers and mental health apps could be doing more harm than good because they are not based on sound science, researchers have warned, comparing some health app developers to “snake oil salesmen of the 1860s”.
Greg Hager, professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University, said that in the absence of trials or scientific grounding it was impossible to say whether apps were having the intended effect.
“I am sure that these apps are causing problems,” he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Boston. Hager cited the one-size-fits-all targets provided by some fitness trackers, such as the Fitbit, which sets users a goal of taking 10,000 steps a day.
Hager claimed the 10,000 steps target dated back to a 1960s Japanese study.