Activity Trackers Unlikely To Help You Become More Active

Is your Fitbit collecting dust in your drawer? Most people stop wearing their activity trackers within a few weeks or months, researchers have found.

AsianScientist (Oct. 6, 2016) – Activity trackers are such as Fitbit, Jawbone and Garmin are becoming increasingly popular, but researchers in Singapore have found that they are unlikely to help people become more active. Their work was published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

The Duke-NUS Medical School study recruited 800 working adults from Singapore and randomly assigned them to a control group, a tracker-only group, or tracker and one of two types of rewards schemes. One rewards group accrued rewards in cash, while the other group’s rewards went to a charity of the individual’s choosing.

After assessing the participants six months after incentives were removed the researchers’ findings showed that regardless of physical activity levels of participants before the study began, activity trackers alone or when combined with rewards designated for charity did not increase activity levels. In fact, nearly half of participants were no longer wearing their trackers by the six-month assessment period.

In contrast, both active and inactive individuals offered cash rewards significantly increased activity levels between baseline and six months, and nearly 90 percent continued to wear the trackers. However, at the end of twelve months, six months after the incentives were removed, this group showed poorer step outcomes than the tracker-only group, suggesting that removing the incentives may have demotivated these individuals and caused them to do worse than had the incentives never been offered. Despite the step differences, activity trackers, with or without incentives, did not lead to noticeable improvements in health outcomes.

While inactivity is fast becoming a global health concern, lead author Dr. Eric Finkelstein of the Duke-NUS Medical School, summed up the results by stating, “Activity trackers alone are not going to stem the rise in chronic diseases.”

However, he further noted that “they could still be part of a comprehensive solution and there may be a role for low cost incentive strategies, although they would likely have to be permanent to avoid any undermining effect from taking them away.”

The article can be found at: Finkelstein et al. (2016) Effectiveness of Activity Trackers With and Without Incentives to Increase Physical Activity (TRIPPA): a Randomized Controled Trial.


Source: Duke-NUS Medical School; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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