Online Program

Impact of Activity Trackers on Increasing Physical Activity

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 8:50 a.m. - 9:10 a.m.

Ralph Turner, Ph.D., Life Sciences Research, HealthCore, Wilmington, DE
John Barron, Pharm D., HealthCore, Wilmington, DE
Inactivity is associated with weight gain and development of chronic illnesses.  Health care experts believe activity trackers might motivate sedentary adults become more active.  However, research supporting this is limited and vitiated by small non-randomized studies without long-term follow-up.  This study aimed to address these limitations. 

Participants, with BMI ≥ 28 and moderate and severe chronic illness were randomized to either Activity Tracker Only (ATO, N = 474) or Activity Tracker plus Coaching (AT+C, N = 473).  Males composed 16% of the sample, average age = 43 and average BMI was 36.

Exercise Readiness (ER) was a continuous covariate.  Assessment occurred at baseline, 3-months, 6-months, and 12-month follow-up.  Outcomes included discontinuation, step count, weight, QOL, absenteeism, and health care utilization and costs.  An accelerated failure-time survival analysis assessed discontinuation and Hierarchical Linear Modeling assessed outcomes. 

Discontinuation was high (25% at 1-week and >50% at 6-months).  AT+C ( =6-mo) and high ER (RR = .23) reduced discontinuation compared to ATO ( =4.5-mo).  AT+C participants increased steps by 1,503 compared to ATO who increased by 537.  More AT+C than ATO participants lost 5 pounds or more.  ER accounted for 27% of activity increase.  There were no significant findings for QOL, missed workdays, health care utilization, or costs.

Although activity trackers have potential to facilitate increased daily physical activity, the trackers alone will not steer the change.  Instead, successful use and health benefits related to these devices will depend on the design of engagement strategies such as educational coaching and social reinforcement.

Learning Areas:

Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Occupational health and safety
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Provision of health care to the public
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Identify the benefits and limitations of using activity trackers as part of public health interventions to aid sedentary adult workers increase their physical activity levels.

Keyword(s): Health Promotion and Education, Preventive Medicine

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I obtained the funding, designed the study with my colleague, ran the study, and prepared the presentation. I begain my career at Temple University School of Medicine in 1980 where I did research on healthcare and taught statistics. I then taught statistics and research design for 10 years at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. For the past five years, I have worked at HealthCore, which conducts publich health and epidemiological research.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.