Researchers in Galway have found that the benefits of smartphone fitness apps depend on the user's social motivation.

The study was carried out in light of the increasing popularity of physical fitness apps, such as RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal.

It found that those who used such technology for giving support and encouragement to others were more likely to have a passion for exercise and that they also reported lower stress levels.

In contrast, higher stress levels were detected among those who used the apps to seek social recognition, like praise and public endorsements for their exercise habits. These people are more likely to have an obsessive passion for physical exercise.

The research was carried out by Eoin Whelan and Treabhair Ó Clochasaigh, from NUI Galway and GMIT respectively.

Dr Whelan said fitness apps could be a double-edged sword and may lead to greater burnout.

He said employers promoting the use of such technologies should be mindful of the signals they can give, regarding obsessive exercising. 

The findings have been published in the Information Technology and People journal.