Mobile Phone Apps to Promote Weight Loss and Increase Physical Activity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

J Med Internet Res. 2015 Nov 10;17(11):e253. doi: 10.2196/jmir.4836.


Background: To our knowledge, no meta-analysis to date has assessed the efficacy of mobile phone apps to promote weight loss and increase physical activity.

Objective: To perform a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies to compare the efficacy of mobile phone apps compared with other approaches to promote weight loss and increase physical activity.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of relevant studies identified by a search of PubMed, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), and Scopus from their inception through to August 2015. Two members of the study team (EG-F, GF-M) independently screened studies for inclusion criteria and extracted data. We included all controlled studies that assessed a mobile phone app intervention with weight-related health measures (ie, body weight, body mass index, or waist circumference) or physical activity outcomes. Net change estimates comparing the intervention group with the control group were pooled across studies using random-effects models.

Results: We included 12 articles in this systematic review and meta-analysis. Compared with the control group, use of a mobile phone app was associated with significant changes in body weight (kg) and body mass index (kg/m(2)) of -1.04 kg (95% CI -1.75 to -0.34; I2 = 41%) and -0.43 kg/m(2) (95% CI -0.74 to -0.13; I2 = 50%), respectively. Moreover, a nonsignificant difference in physical activity was observed between the two groups (standardized mean difference 0.40, 95% CI -0.07 to 0.87; I2 = 93%). These findings were remarkably robust in the sensitivity analysis. No publication bias was shown.

Conclusions: Evidence from this study shows that mobile phone app-based interventions may be useful tools for weight loss.

Keywords: apps; intervention; mHealth; mobile phone; obesity; physical activity.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Phone / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Mobile Applications / statistics & numerical data*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Weight Loss / physiology*