Fang, S., & Aldoory, L. (2021). Acquaintance, Coach, or Buddy?: Perceived Relationships between Chinese Women and Mobile Fitness Technology, Communication Studies, DOI: 10.1080/10510974.2021.2011351

Chinese women are among the most frequent users of fitness technology, and yet the least likely to adhere to a fitness regimen. Little research has been done on preference, use, and perceptions of mobile health tools. Research, however, has shown that women’s adherence to fitness technology has been low, and that relationship management theory might hold a key to understanding how perceived relationships might increase adherence to exercise regimens. This study uses relationship management theory as a framework to explore user-technology relationships developed by Chinese women who use mobile fitness technology for exercise and nutrition guidance. With 32 one-on-one in-depth interviews, short-term and long-term users were categorized and asked about trust, commitment, involvement and investment. Among the findings were three types of perceived relationships found, that of acquaintance, coach and buddy. The findings also highlighted three factors to facilitate long-term relationships between users and mobile fitness technology. These were social motivation, high perceived efficiency, and synchronized verbal feedback. Findings support the application of relationship management theory in digital health contexts and to increase fitness outcomes among young Chinese women.