Wearing a fitness tracker makes people exercise more often and stay active, according to research from a number of studies.
On average, people walked 1,850 extra steps per day while they were using activity trackers and fitness apps compared with when they weren’t - almost an extra mile.
Previous research indicated that fitness trackers could increase exercise by around 38 minutes per week.
How did the study work?
Scientists at the University of Sydney looked at data from 28 different clinical studies to come up with their findings. The studies ranged from 2007 to January of this year, taking in data from more than 7,000 participants aged between 18 and 65.
The researchers compared data for the same group of participants when they were using fitness tracker devices and when they weren’t.
The results showed that apps and products which used messaging prompts and reminders were most effective at encouraging more activity. The more features included in the product which allow the user to customise their goals or go beyond a basic level of exercise, the better an effect it is likely to have, according to the study.
Public health benefits
Wearable exercise tracker and smartphone apps which monitor activity should be prescribed to improve public health, according to researchers who put together the study.
In a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the researchers wrote, “The prescription of smartphone apps or activity trackers by clinicians to promote physical activity may extend the benefits of these interventions beyond the ‘worried well’ early adopters.
“Primary care behaviour counselling interventions to promote physical activity are known to consistently improve important intermediate health outcomes, with evidence of a dose-response.
“Given increasing time constraints in clinical practice, a brief intervention during the consultation may consist of prescribing an app or tracker, as part of a shared decision-making process, to individuals who seem ready to make behavioural changes.”