Health tips for August 2015

How emotional support can help lower stress levels and what to look for in a physical activity app.

Talk it out

We know talking to someone helps when we’re stressed, but now there are numbers to prove it. In a poll of more than 3,000 US adults that was conducted for the American Psychological Association, those who said they had someone they could ask for emotional support, such as a friend or family member, reported lower stress levels than those without support. Forty-three percent of respondents with no emotional support reported that their overall stress increased over the past year, compared with 26% of those with support. It seems we all really do need somebody to lean on.

Tough apps to follow

If you’re looking for help to exercise more, there’s an app for that — in fact, there are many. But if you think one is just as good as another, think again.

In a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers examined the top 100 physical activity apps to see how many used 93 “behaviour change techniques” (BCTs), methods that have proven effective in altering an individual’s habits. They found only 39 BCTs in all of the apps, with an average of 6.6 in each app. Investigators noted that most apps feature BCTs that are moderately effective in changing behaviour, such as using social media for feedback and motivation, rather than those that are more effective, such as active self-monitoring.