Do Fitness Trackers Improve Health?

It’s hard to deny their popularity; about 1-in-5 Americans own an activity tracker. But do these trackers really improve health? A new study suggests…..they may not.

From Time Magazine:

….the latest evidence suggests that they (activity trackers) don’t do much to motivate people to move more.

Turns out, it’s really hard to persuade people to exercise—even when they have access to how many steps they’ve taken, and even when they get paid for it.

According to Mother Jones, “In a Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology study published Tuesday, researchers tracked 800 people over the course of a year—some with Fitbits worn around their waists, some without. On average, those wearing Fitbits recorded a modest 16 more minutes of active physical activity than those without Fitbits, and no difference from the control group in health outcomes like weight or blood pressure. After a year, just 10 percent were still wearing the Fitbits. That finding echoes previous research finding that half of all fitness tracker owners don’t use them.”

It’s not hard to imagine why fitness trackers don’t work if people won’t wear them. But the study’s lead author, Eric Finkelstein, Ph.D., believes there’s more to it than that. In a Consumer Reports story, Finkelstein said that participants might have benefited more if they had focused not just on walking more but also on walking faster.

“You shouldn’t assume that all you need to do is buy one of these devices and suddenly your health is going to improve,” Finkelstein said. “At the end of the day, diet and exercise are lifelong commitments, and technology could be part of a comprehensive intervention, but it’s not sufficient.”

Fitbit isn’t buying into the results of the new study and fired back saying, “Numerous published studies, along with internal Fitbit data, continue to demonstrate the health benefits of using a fitness tracker combined with a mobile app to support health and fitness goals.”

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the study and whether you believe activity trackers can help move the health needle here our state. Generating thoughtful conversations around the health issues making news is just one of the many ways we are working to one day make Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!



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