Do Fitness Trackers Help People Get Active?


[Updated May 4, 2018]

fitness tracking device

Q: I’ve seen fitness wristbands that remind people to get up and move during the day. Do these really help people be less sedentary?

Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM, an assistant professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine and director of the Digital Health Communication Certificate Program, responds:

A:“The benefits of using activity trackers stem from their educational role. This becomes apparent as you learn how active or sedentary you really are and the impact small changes in your behavior have on your physical activity level. For example, the devices may provide the impetus for taking a 5-minute activity break for every hour you’re sitting and give you tangible feedback on how many steps you add when you take the stairs instead of the elevator.

“Behavior change comes when you incorporate such activities into your daily routine and when the tracker itself serves as a reminder of your commitment to becoming more fit. That’s when the reminders to move are helpful – and acted upon – instead of being annoying.

“Most people know they should exercise more, but many find it hard to start and maintain this behavior. Trackers can be beneficial in that regard, but certainly not all people like them. So, you may want to start with a low-cost wearable tracker or a free activity-reminder app for your mobile device or computer.”

To learn more: JMIR Research Protocols, October-December 2016


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