Do People Wearing Activity Trackers Really Exercise More? Interview with:
Aarti Sahasranaman, PhD
Duke-NUS Gradaute Medical School
Singapore What is the background for this study?

Response: More than half of adults in developed countries do not achieve recommended levels of physical activity. Despite the popularity of activity trackers as a tool for motivating and monitoring activity levels, little research exists on whether they can help people lead healthier lives, or if financial incentives could encourage people to wear them for longer and achieve higher fitness levels. One in ten US adults owns an activity tracker but research suggests that about a third of people abandon them within 6 months of purchase. What are the main findings?

Response: Our study showed that using an activity tracker that monitors and provides feedback on physical activity does not increase activity levels enough to benefit health, even with the incentive of a financial reward. While financial incentives can motivate small increases in physical activity in the short term, the removal of these incentives causes a decline in activity levels to baseline values. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Activity trackers alone might not be effective in helping people become more physically active, especially since most people stop wearing the trackers within six months in the absence of incentives to do so. Additionally, coupling incentives to daily steps may not be the way to go. However, tying them to aerobic steps is worth considering as these are the type of steps most likely to improve health. The results also suggest that any incentive strategy would need to be in place for a longer period of time to generate any noticeable improvements in health benefits and to avoid any undermining effect from their removal. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: The incentive strategies we tested are one of many alternatives we could have chosen from. It would be worth testing whether our incentive strategy or others when tied to aerobic steps or aerobic minutes rather than daily or weekly steps are effective at improving health. Thank you for your contribution to the community.

Effectiveness of activity trackers with and without incentives to increase physical activity (TRIPPA): a randomised controlled trial
Finkelstein, Eric A et al.
The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology , Volume 0 , Issue 0

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on October 6, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD