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How the social dimension of fitness apps can enhance and undermine wellbeing: A dual model of passion perspective

Eoin Whelan (Department of Business Information Systems, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland)
Trevor Clohessy (Department of Business Information Systems, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Galway, Ireland)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 15 January 2020

Issue publication date: 22 January 2021




While the positive health benefits of fitness apps, which motivate and track physical exercise, are widely acknowledged, the adverse connection between these technologies and wellbeing has received little attention. The purpose of this paper is to determine how the social dimensions of fitness apps predict the type of passion (harmonious and obsessive) one has for physical exercise, and what the resulting positive and negative implications are for wellbeing.


Drawing from the theoretical frameworks of social influence and the dual model of passion (DMP), this study develops a model depicting how fitness apps relate to the causes and consequences of harmonious and obsessive passion for exercise. Survey data were collected from 272 fitness app using cyclists and analysed with partial least squares structural equation modelling techniques.


Different social influence aspects of fitness apps appeal to different types of exercisers. A harmonious passion for physical exercise is predicted by the positive reciprocal benefits attained from one’s fitness app community, while an obsessive passion is predicted by positive recognition. In turn, a harmonious passion for exercise is negatively associated with life burnout, while an obsessive passion strongly affirms that relationship. In addition, the relationship between social influence and life burnout is fully mediated by the type of passion a fitness app user possesses.


Underpinned by the DMP, the study provides a theoretical framework explaining how the use of fitness apps can result in opposing wellness outcomes.



Whelan, E. and Clohessy, T. (2021), "How the social dimension of fitness apps can enhance and undermine wellbeing: A dual model of passion perspective", Information Technology & People, Vol. 34 No. 1, pp. 68-92.



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