News & Insights 29 July 2021

Can fitness trackers enhance physical activity levels?

As the popularity of fitness trackers continues to rise, with the likes of FitBit and Garmin dominating the industry, understanding their true value becomes an increasingly relevant field of study. One such study that intended to unearth the truth behind this was recently published in the JAMA Network Open, and provided a particular insight into the impact of fitness trackers on individuals with cardiometabolic conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes and various cardiovascular diseases.

Whilst physical activity has been a well-established risk factor and accepted as a key management tool for many chronic diseases for some time, the addition of using wearable technologies to monitor and enhance this is a somewhat new revelation. In these relatively novel findings, the authors suggest that wearable physical activity monitors, ranging from pedometers to fitness trackers, can help to increase physical activity levels in those with a multitude of chronic conditions.

It was also noted that particularly strong improvements in activity were found when these wearables were used in combination with other components such as regular consultation with a health care professional. Such an objective insight reiterates the importance of understanding the data provided by wearable monitors, with clear benefits being experienced when individuals are able to gain real value from their data thanks to the input of a professional.

Alongside the primary outcome of physical activity increases, the authors also highlighted a range of secondary outcomes including positive changes in body weight or BMI, reduced blood glucose levels, blood pressure and healthier cholesterol levels. These additional outcomes further reduce the risk of future chronic conditions through key modifiable risk factors, with no additional effort required from you!

Whilst identifying the specific reasons behind the increase in activity still requires further research, the original authors hypothesised that the accountability of the trackers may play a key role in enhancing the motivation of users. Within this however, it is also advised that individuals do not fixate on these numbers, be that steps, minutes or the closing of rings, due to a range of potentially detrimental impacts that you can read more about here.

Previous research has also reiterated the importance of contextualising the data provided by these fitness trackers; without a real understanding of your activity, what that means for your personal health and a clear insight into how this can fit into your specific goals, sustainable behaviour change is unlikely. With an activity tracker alone, nobody really knows how to use the data they’ve collected to make positive change. What good is a number of steps or burst of activity if you don’t know what you did to cause that? How are you supposed to replicate beneficial activities if you don’t know which are actually helping you?

Whilst the initial anticipation of a fitness tracker may spark a short burst of motivation, it’s this additional understanding of the context that enables you to transfer numbers on a screen into real, physical changes in your everyday life. At KiActiv®, our unique cutting-edge technology combines with the latest science to provide analysis within the context of you and your health; empowering you to make sustainable, authentic behaviour change through our unique insights. Every move you make throughout the day matters, not just exercise or the number of steps you do, and recognising this central to living a healthier, happier life!

The KiActiv® Team