Be together, run more: Enhancing group participation in fitness technology
Journal of the Association of Information Systems
Association for Information Systems
School of Business and Law
Individuals are increasingly using novel fitness technologies, such as running applications (apps), to support their workouts. The literature has primarily focused on the use of fitness apps at the individual level (i.e., to improve individuals’ exercise levels) and few studies have investigated the role of fitness apps in facilitating group exercise. Consequently, there is a paucity of information on how to enhance the exercise participation of individuals using fitness apps through the use of groups (i.e., how to entice more individuals to engage in exercise). We selected a running app as the context and focused on a particular feature of this app called “Running Spot,” which facilitates members’ offline group engagement, a topic that has thus far received scant attention in the literature. Drawing on the perspective of psychological distance and relational cohesion theory, we propose that the Running Spot feature facilitating offline group engagement improved group participation in running. To advance this line of research, we utilized a panel dataset of 151 running groups from the running app platform over a period of 38 weeks. The aim was to empirically evaluate the effects of offline group engagement facilitation (e.g., Running Spot) using a combination of the difference-in-differences approach and the propensity score matching technique. Our findings suggest that Running Spot indeed promoted groups’ participation in running. Furthermore, the impact of Running Spot was magnified with smaller groups and groups that were moderately closely located to the designated running spots. Our study contributes to the growing body of knowledge on fitness technologies by revealing ways to support group participation and uncovering the complex impact of offline group engagement facilitation (e.g., Running Spot). Our study has important implications for fitness app developers in that it demonstrates that features facilitating offline group engagement should be prioritized to improve group participation in fitness activities.