Do fitness trackers work? A new study suggest they might not be very useful, finding that 90% of people stopped wearing them when given the choice.
It doesn’t matter if they can monitor their steps or they get paid money to exercise. The goal of getting people to exercise poses a challenge both for the technology developers and for the users.
To Wear or Not to Wear
The year-long study was conducted by researchers in Singapore and published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
For the study, a group of 800 employed people were asked to participate. They were divided into groups: one group wore Fitbit Zip – with an option to keep or donate – while the others did not wear Fitbits. During this study, the researchers recorded the changes in the quality of life as a result of their physical activities.
As the incentives were removed during the second half of the study, respondents were given the option to either continue to stop wearing the fitness trackers. (Almost 40% already discontinued wearing the trackers during the first half of the study).
It turned out that the cash incentives worked only for a short period. The ones who were paid, added around 570 steps more to the daily counts. An extra 13 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week were also added. When the incentives stopped, so did the improvements. Even a nudge to do it for charity did nothing to encourage them.
Only 10% of the respondents wore their trackers until the end of the study and only the group using Fitbit have recorded improvements with the additional 16 minutes of activity per week. The general result, recorded no significant improvements in terms of health and lifestyle of the subjects within the 6-month or 12-month span of time.
In a separate study, a group of individuals were given the option to wear the device during a weight-loss program. The result showed that those who wore the device lost lesser weight.
So, what’s the point in using wearables when studies revealed that wearing trackers does not motivate an individual to exercise? According to John Jakicic, a physical activity researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, “We found that just giving people a device doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to result in something you think it’s going to result in… These activity trackers really don’t engage people in strategies that really make a difference in terms of long-term lifestyle change.”
The ones who tend purchase these trackers are mostly the fitness enthusiasts. They often do so to geek out their regime. For those who aren’t into regular exercise activities, what they need is to find a motivation to moving and not a gadget.