The findings also revealed that once someone has started using an activity tracker, sustained use at six months was high at 80 percent. The results revealed that while overall activity tracker use was 1.2 percent, it was nearly double (2.8 to 3.1 percent) among younger individuals. Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that 1.2 percent of the study population engaged with devices and that most of the individuals who started using an activity tracker were younger and had higher-incomes than people who opted not to use the devices.
‘Wearable fitness tracker did show improved levels of physical activity over a year. More efforts are needed to initially engage individuals to start using fitness trackers.’
The participants used FitBit trackers (76 percent), with Apple devices being the second most common (nine percent). The authors stated that the results provide valuable insights for wellness programs, insurance companies, and other program designers who should consider testing new and more targeted engagement strategies to motivate older and lower-income populations. "Many people are excited by the potential of using activity trackers to monitor healthy behaviours, but there is very little evidence on who is using them and whether or not use is sustained over time," said Mitesh Patel from Penn Medicine's Nudge Unit.
The team analysed data from 2014-2015 for subscribers of a national health and wellness organisation. They tracked when participants first activated their activity tracker, how frequently the device was used in the first six months following activation, average daily step counts and sociodemographic characteristics. They found that though the use grew over time, it really varied depending on individual characteristics like age and income. The authors suggested that more efforts are needed to initially engage individuals to start using these devices and that the findings may help programs better target their approach. The results are published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine.