By Natasha Baker
TORONTO (Reuters) - Runners who listen to music while exercising can turn to new apps that match the beats to their steps, which app makers claim can increase enjoyment of the sport.
More than 45 million smartphone users in the United States use fitness and health apps, an 18 percent increase since last year, according to global information company Nielsen.
Although runners often turn to apps to track distance traveled, calories burned, or to set goals, new apps aim simply to increase enjoyment of running by matching the tempo of the music with the runner’s stride.
RockMyRun, a free app for the iPhone, provides playlists that change tempo to match the pace of the runner, slowing down and speeding up as they do.
"We want to help people enjoy running more and perform better, because those are the keys to getting them to do that activity again,” said Adam Riggs-Zeigen, co-founder of San Diego-based Rock My World Inc, which developed the app.
The app uses the device’s sensors to detect the runner's steps per minute and then automatically adjusts the music's beats per minute to match the step count.
"Music that is matched to the pace of the runner can increase the length people are willing to run, and create more positive emotions associated with the activity,” said Riggs-Zeigen.
Playlists within the app, which is available worldwide, are curated by professional DJs.
TempoRun, for iPhone, and DjRun, for Android, are also designed to make running more enjoyable by matching the tempo of music to a runner’s pace. Both apps are free and scan through music on a runner’s smartphone to figure out whether the songs are faster- or slower-paced.
TempoRun categorizes all songs into levels based on their tempos, between level 1 for walking and level 10 for sprinting. Users can also stream music through the app and track their progress including calories burned and distance.
DjRun adjusts the music to the runner's stride and can curate the next song based on the person's current pace.
While apps may make running more enjoyable, new research suggests that consumers should be cautious if they expect a health or fitness app to change suddenly their habits and exercise routines.
"There’s so much promise in mobile health for changing people’s behaviors and reducing healthcare impact on the country, but it’s not clear that hype will turn into reality," said David Conroy, a professor at Penn State who led a study that looked at 167 health and fitness apps and whether they incorporated recognized behavior-change techniques.
He suggested that more app developers work collaboratively with behavior scientists.
"A lot of apps are driven and developed around what looks good or what people would like to see. There’s a chance to inform apps with the science of behavior change by not only putting in features users want but also which science shows changes behavior in desirable ways.”
(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Matthew Lewis)