A study performed at Atlantic Sports Health, based in Morristown, NJ, examining the effectiveness of wearable activity trackers showed that those who wore the devices over a period of time and had access to the data the devices collected, such as number of steps taken, averaged more active hours per day than those who did not have the data.
‘The information displayed in the devices that tells an individual’s progress in physical activity is the key motivator that has great potential in leading the person to healthier living.’
"Information is a powerful motivator," said Damion Martins, MD, medical director of sports medicine and sports physical therapy for Atlantic Health System, who led the study. "Wearable trackers can be instrumental to one's journey to fitness, but it's truly the information that they convey about a person's progress that helps keep them on track in a rewarding direction."
"In short, as the proverb goes, 'nothing succeeds like success,' and if technology can help fuel the mind to positively impact our fitness goals - why not give it a try?" said co-author Adam Kahn, physician assistant and manager at Atlantic Sports Health. This is particularly timely since according to a 2018 survey by Accenture, consumer use of wearables has more than tripled since 2014.
The 14-week study consisted of 60 relatively healthy female and male participants between the ages of 25 and 55. The participants were Atlantic Health System employees, who held office or "desk" jobs.
Participants were randomly placed in one of three groups. For the first 30 days, Group A participants wore a device with knowledge of its function, and with access to the data measured by the device (such as steps taken).
Group B had knowledge of device's function, but without access to the data through the corresponding digital app. From days 31 to 60, Groups A and B crossed over to either gain access to the device's data (Group B) or lose it (Group A).
The third group, Group C, had knowledge of the device's function but had no access to the data for the duration of the study.
The results showed that those who had access to information about their progress remained more active than those who only had the device. This was most evident with Group A, which averaged the most active hours per day throughout the duration of the study, but saw a decrease in active hours and steps taken once they lost access to that information.
The findings were similar to those in a recent study at the University of California, San Diego, which demonstrated that having access to performance indicators that could be viewed in real-time served as a motivator to activate change.
"I like the concept of wearables because it can boost a patient's engagement and can help prevent costly chronic care episodes," said Dr. Martins.
While many factors can impact an individual's desire to become more physically active, the abundant availability of technology and its ability to hold the user accountable by providing instant feedback serves incredible potential toward healthier living, the study further concluded. The evaluation of the data provided by such devices may serve to better aid the users in optimizing and sustaining their engagement with physical activity.