Is there an app for that?

A long-time smartphone owner, I swore I would never purchase a mobile app. And for a few years, I stuck to that promise, resisting the siren call of Angry Birds and Cut the Rope and relying solely on free games, recipe sites and traffic, mapping and weather-related apps. But when I began the Couch-to-5k program last month, a beginner’s running schedule for out-of-shape folks trying to get off the couch, I bought the accompanying app with no reluctance or remorse. Apparently, I’m in good company.

New research seems to reveal that instead of generating an inactive lifestyle, much like television’s link to the couch potato, social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook may be driving people into new forms of fitness activities. The recently released study by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association and Association of Fitness Industry Retailers and Manufacturers shows that social networking and Generation Y’s focus on technology is having a dramatic impact on American fitness trends, generating significant increases in participation in high impact aerobics, step, group stationary cycling and more.

“Generation Y is probably in closer communication with its peers than any other group in history,” said SGMA’s President & CEO Tom Cove, in a prepared statement. “People in their early 20s to early 30s are using social media on all levels and at all times. One of the by-products of this steady communication is the surge in popularity of group exercise classes among Generation Y. Group cycling, step aerobics and dance to music classes are all very popular.”

But it’s not just about physical fitness. Mobile apps are proving to be a major influence in various aspects of daily life. We now use our smartphones to check restaurant reviews, update our Fantasy Football lineups, count calories, clip coupons, learn new languages and search for real estate. Just last month, Cookerly Public Relations, in partnership with Vert Mobile, created an innovative mobile resource to help Georgians deal with emergencies. Launched on behalf of our client, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security (GEMA), the Ready Georgia mobile app gives state residents a new way to prepare, plan and stay informed for emergencies. From geo-located weather alerts to customizable emergency plans to live maps of open shelter locations, people can access a variety of features never before available in one mobile application.

In today’s landscape of constantly-evolving technology, mobile apps not only allow us to stay in touch with work, friends and family, they also create new expectations for how we can stay abreast of issues happening in our fields of professional and personal interest. And for those in the Public Relations industry, mobile apps might provide another opportunity to reach people throughout the day, sometimes more effectively than through online or television/print/radio pitching or advertising.

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