These days, there’s a digital solution for everything. From super specific specialty dating to seat switching on a plane, there’s an app for that — for reals. And it’s no surprise that in today’s health-conscious world, there are numerous fitness and health apps that can help you stay on track and motivate you to keep up good habits… or potentially break bad ones. Since it can be easy to download an awesome new app and then completely forget about it, it’s only natural to wonder if they actually have an effect on how you behave. Well, according to the American Heart Association, mobile apps and trackers do a pretty good job of keeping people accountable and promoting positive lifestyle changes. Yay!

Runner using smart watch

In the study, researchers gathered data from over 200 past studies to see how people reacted to health intervention software used on phones, computers and trackers. What they discovered was super encouraging. Generally, these digital tools were successful in helping people do things like improve their diet, lose weight, reduce tobacco and alcohol use and become more active. Plus, people who were part of a “mobile device intervention,” like receiving texts encouraging them to exercise, were able to both increase their exercise activity and lose weight.

breakfast with smart phone

So are all health-monitoring apps created equal? Dr. Ashkan Afshin, the lead author of the study and acting assistant professor of global health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle, noted that “programs that have components such as goal setting and self-monitoring and use multiple modes of communication with tailored messages tended to be more effective. We also found these programs were more effective if they included some interactions with healthcare providers.” So as with most things, the more personalized you can make your program, the better your results will be, which is definitely something to keep in mind when choosing a fitness, nutrition or habit-breaking app. Plus, you get bonus points if you can get access to a trainer, doctor or other health expert along the way.

So what do other professionals in the field think of the study? We asked a doctor who deals with these weight-related issues on a daily basis, Dr. Ayotunde Adeyeri of Sterling Surgicare in Holmdel, NJ, how he sees apps fitting into a healthy lifestyle. While phones, computers and Netflix can sometimes distract people from getting active, Adeyeri says it doesn’t have to be that way. “The regular use of smartphones and the Internet offer a wealth of support and motivational tools for people trying to lose or manage their weight,” he notes. It’s true; there’s plenty of information available on the Internet about how to develop and maintain healthy routines. Plus, you might find health benefits in places you don’t expect. “Look at the Pokémon Go craze, for example. I have patients who achieved their 10,000 steps per day just having fun outside playing this web-based game.” It sounds like, as of now, your technology can be your ally, rather than your enemy, in a quest for a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

What’s your favorite health app? Tell us about it @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)