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Ask Tufts Experts August 2017 Issue

Do Fitness Trackers Help People Get Active?

Some fitness-tracking wearable devices include a feature that sends you alerts when it's time to move. Are these actually effective?

[Updated May 4, 2018]

fitness tracking device

A fitness tracking device helps you become aware of just how active - or sedentary - you really are. Some of these even let you know when it's time to exercise!

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

Comments (1)

There are various groups of people My wife and I, now both 68, have enjoyed sport and exercise throughout life and have to force ourselves to rest when needed, and people like us on'r need a wristband(We walk or bike, not owning a vehicle). There are those who love sport but stopped who would benefit, especially when realizing how inactive they have become. They may also benefit never-exercisers by showing them how easily one can increase steps. Some obsessive sports people like numbers but usually go for very high tech. In the past, I was one of those as well, but found listening to my body more helpful, enjoying nature not numbers, and learning to rest 3 days between each sport( running, biking, surfing ) with interspaced rest days but usually walking my dog most days. In short, I agree that many could benefit.

Posted by: jackelope 65 | August 21, 2017 10:55 AM    Report this comment

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