The New York Times recently reviewed the studies and reached the same conclusion many already of us instinctively knew to be true when we aspirationally purchased a device. They work.
The first study by the Association of Epidemiology1 titled “Associations of Accelerometry-Assessed and Self-Reported Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior With All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Among US Adults” by Kelly R. Evenson et al. looked at the activity — via a fitness tracker — of 4,000 middle-aged men and women for one week. Researchers compared the tracker data to participants’ self-reported activity to determine an objective measurement.
The participants of this study were followed for up to 10 years and their names checked against the National Death Registry to see if those meeting their 150-minute-per-week guideline lived longer. Unsurprisingly, increased activity correlated with longer life expectancy. But it is exciting because, as Dr. Timothy Church, who wrote a comment on the study, states that with this research, “All of the pieces are in place to make physical inactivity a national priority, and we now have the opportunity to positively affect the health of millions of Americans.”
That is, if Americans begin to use their tracker consistently. The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology2 published a study “Effectiveness of activity trackers with and without incentives to increase physical activity (TRIPPA): a randomised controlled trial” by Prof Eric A Finkelstein, Ph.D. et al. in which they measured the effect of incentivization for fitness trackers.
Researchers gave 800 office workers in Singapore a fitness monitor. They were separated into three groups: those who received a monetary reward commensurate with their activity, those whose activity yielded a charitable donation and those who received neither. The group receiving cash were shown to exercise the most and the group without the incentive the least. After the reward system ended, fitness tracker usage declined, but the non-incentivized group exercised more after six months. Since most of the participants stopped wearing their monitors, data was limited.
Obviously, these studies show that more research is needed to find the motivation behind activity and how to harness it.