Can a personal training app replace a real-life trainer? | The Tylt

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Can a personal training app replace a real-life trainer?

It's simple. You enter your fitness goals, choose a workout that fits your time constraints and style and then, simply, go. Aaptiv, one of the latest and most popular fitness apps, brings personal training to your headphones, and for just $14.99 per month (as opposed to the hundreds of dollars you could be spending on an in-person trainer per session).

CNN's Samuel Burke lays out Aaptiv's offering: 

The app goes far beyond running: Courses are available for everything from yoga to strength training, voiced by a coach with current music playing in the background. The routines are designed for different settings like the gym, outdoors and home, and some require equipment like weights or a treadmill while others need no props.

Aaptiv has a team of just 22 personal trainers who record every workout available to the app's 200,000 users. Aaptiv's diversity of content and free-hand setup make it easy to use for anyone serious about getting or staying in shape. 


But if you're a beginner–perhaps gearing up for a new you in 2019–would a personal training app really be able to take you from the couch to crushing weights? CNN's Burke continues his reporting: 

The convenience and variety are big draws, but Aaptiv's audio-only format poses a major challenge: Because users can't see the exercises, they must rely solely on the trainer's verbal explanation to ensure they're doing the workout correctly.

The truth is, fitness and personal training apps are still so new, that very little research exists as to whether or not they actually affect users' health long-term. Global News's Leslie Young looked to Dr. Oyungerel Byambasuren, who conducted research on fitness apps for another study, for insight: 

'We found that only a very small percentage of all available medical and health and fitness apps have been tested and shown to be somewhat effective.'

Meaning if you really want to see results from personal training, you're better off going with a more tried-and-true method. 

-apps lack logevity and encouragement

-need accountability and community 


Regardless of what research exists, personal training apps provide a window into fitness not otherwise accessible to the masses. Personal training is a huge expense, and for some, training is necessary in order to make a lifestyle change in exercise and nutrition. 

Personal training apps like Nike Training Club even include workouts by athletes like Serena Williams, and who wouldn't choose Serena to lead their workout over some random trainer? 

Using an app might not get your body sculpted in the same way an in-person trainer would, but there's no question that these apps educate users on activity and get people moving, which will always count as a win. 


But as many fitness hopefuls know, it's very difficult to keep up with new habits, particularly when it comes to nutrition and exercise. An in-person personal trainer provides accountability and encouragement that no app can replicate. According to author Nir Eyal:

To date, the burgeoning fitness app industry has relied too heavily upon game-like incentives to motivate behavior — but games invariably come to an end. When the novelty of extrinsic prizes like points, leaderboards, and step counts wear off, the experience becomes monotonous and users quit. 

Global News's Young makes a similar point: 

If an app is designed to change behavior, said Guy Faulkner, head of UBC’s Population Physical Activity Lab, it should incorporate techniques that have been shown to actually affect behavior—not just offering exercise programs, for example.
'Unless the app has some kind of functionality where it’s trying to target these behavior change techniques, I think they’re unlikely to be effective,' he said.

The reality is that for most, personal training apps create only temporary hope for change.

Can a personal training app replace a real-life trainer?
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