As of 2014, there were over 165,000 health apps available for download in the iOS and Android app stores (duplicates excluded). There are over 500 million people using them—1 in 3 patients seen in primary care. This explosion of health apps has created an entire cottage industry that is projected to pull in over $8 billion by 2018. But few apps for health are evidence based and less than 1% are FDA regulated. A 2016 study by the Commonwealth Fund performed a systematic review of 946 iOS apps and 1,173 Android apps and evaluated them on their merits regarding patient engagement. Of the apps that met the reviewers inclusion criteria, only 161 (43%) of iOS apps and 152 (27%) of Android apps were assessed as “possibly useful”, of which 126 apps existed on both platforms. A 2015 systematic scoping review of 457 articles and 800 apps for weight loss found that only 28 met inclusion criteria for quality and behavior change principles.

Despite the lack of evidence for many existing fitness apps, we know that lack of exercise is deadly. A 2012 study of 222,497 Australian adults demonstrated a significant association between sitting time and all-cause mortality. In fact, even adults who exercised more than 300 minutes per week but still had 11 or more hours of sedentary time experienced excess all-cause mortality! The bottom-line: we all need to stand more and get moving! The current guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise/week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise/week AND 2 or more strength/resistance sessions/week. Two UK physiotherapists have created a new app called iPrescribe Exercise to assist patients in reaching recommended fitness goals. The app is designed for sedentary patients and those with chronic diseases who want or need to get moving to reach fitness goals to improve their health/medical conditions.

Video Review

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Evidence based medicine

iPrescribe Exercise creates a customized 12-week graduated exercise program for sedentary patients and/or those with chronic diseases. It utilizes evidence-based recommendations from the UK National Health Service which mirror current US AHA/ACSM recommendations. The app also includes an pre-exercise health screening and fitness test (6 minute walk) to assist in customizing the program and tracking patient fitness.

What providers would benefit from this App?

Patients, students, residents, mid-levels, physicians, sports medicine, nurses, any staff provider who may prescribe exercise programs for patients.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

  • Price
    • Free
    • The app brings evidence-based exercise recommendations to patients.
    • Personalized, customizable, progressive using capabilities of iPhone—GPS, pedometer, etc.   
    • Disease focused with library for patients and ability to share data with providers.
    • Includes health assessment and walk test to provide data for program.
  • Dislikes
    • Slightly cumbersome set-up; uses metric system for some data input.
    • No apple watch app.
    • No diet tracking or recommendations.
    • Not available for Android.
  • Overall

    iPrescribe Exercise is an excellent free health and fitness app that brings evidence-based exercise recommendations to the iPhone. The app is easy to use and best suited for patients with chronic diseases or those just wanting to get back into shape and looking for a graduated fitness program/tracking app. The lack of diet logging and Apple Watch support may limit appeal to some compared to other health/fitness apps currently available.

  • Overall Score
  • User Interface

    Simple to use interface, but may lack some capabilities of similar health/fitness apps.

  • Multimedia Usage

    Instructions could be more comprehensive, but includes disease library with advice and helpful summaries of progress to share with providers (though no way to email/print from app).

  • Price

    App is free.

  • Real World Applicability

    iPrescribe Exercise joins a crowded market of exercise and health apps. Its strengths are the evidence based recommendations for exercise upon which it is based, simplicity and personalized fitness plans. The lack of dietary tracking and Apple Watch support as well as number of fitness options make it less competitive with other similar apps.

  • Device Used For Review

    iPhone 6S running iOS 10.0.2

  • Available for DownloadiPhoneiPad