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Concordia masters student develops new fitness app

by Liam Sharp October 27, 2020
Concordia masters student develops new fitness app

Negar Haghbin’s fitness app uses push notifications for motivation

If you’re struggling to stick to a fitness routine, you’re not alone.  

Social distancing protocol and the closure of most physical fitness centres have made it harder to exercise effectively. To be stuck at home for most of the day has made finding motivation to work out more challenging than ever.

While some athletes are self-driven and autonomous when it comes to their health, many people find motivation in comradery. Whether fitness means going to a group yoga class, working out in a public gym, or playing basketball at a recreational centre, it is generally made easier when in the presence of others.

A recently developed iOS fitness app aims to make the most of technology in modern devices by sending daily context-aware push notifications to users to assist them in meeting their fitness goals.

I interviewed Negar Haghbin, a master’s student in computer science at the Applied Perception Lab at Concordia who developed and designed the fitness app. She goes into detail on the app and its intricacies, when and how the idea came about, and how COVID-19 influenced her work.

Liam Sharp (LS): What inspired you to design a fitness app?

Negar Haghbin (NH): At the Applied Perception Lab, we mostly deal with health-related projects. Mobile push notifications are an important technology when it comes to that because they serve as great reminders. For example, elderly people who take prescribed medicine can use push notifications to reliably remind them of their daily routines. While that aspect was studied heavily, there was a grey area in our research with push notifications as it pertained to fitness, so that’s how the idea really came about.

LS: Can you describe the application? What makes it unique?

NH: We conducted a survey at Concordia on push notification preferences that got over 100 participants. Based on the results, we created the iOS fitness application that sends three types of daily push notifications. The first type is based on the user’s location, the second is based on a predetermined time set by the user, and the third is based on the user’s level of activity for the day.

The app has numerous other functionalities, like offering different types of workouts in the database that users can customize to their desires. A diary section allows for users to list workouts done within the application or separately. Finally, by completing workouts, users can progress towards badges and achievements that serve as rewards to add motivation.

LS: Did this idea come to life with the pandemic? What impact do you think COVID-19 will have on it?

NH: I started the project around October 2019, so it’s been a little over a year. I believe COVID-19 will make the application more prevalent with people being restricted to their homes and having limited access to equipment. But I can’t say COVID-19 inspired me to develop the app because at the time, the virus was not yet a global situation.

LS: Who is the application designed for?

NH: There isn’t a specific target audience. Anyone can use the app as long as they are willing to work out regularly. Building the habit will take time as previous research has indicated it takes about 10 weeks to fully develop autonomy. The truth is that the workouts are designed so that anyone at any fitness level can use the application for its intelligent reminders and/or the routines.

LS: Is the app available for download as of right now? 

NH: Currently, it’s not available on the App Store because it is still in the research phase and we haven’t used the Apple server to collect data from user’s phones. Instead, we get participants in our study to send screenshots at the end of the research period and they fill out a questionnaire that ultimately figures out if the user successfully developed a daily workout habit while using the application. As of right now, it’s not available, but who knows for the future.

LS: How can people participate in the project? 

NH: We’re always looking for participants for the long version of the user study, so if people are willing to help, they can learn more on the application and how to apply at the AP Lab website.

 

If you’re interested in participating in the study, send an email to n_haghbi@encs.concordia.ca for more information.

 

Graphic by Rose-Marie Dion

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