Online Program

Advantages and Disadvantages of Incorporating Fitness Trackers within a Military Sleep, Activity, and Nutrition Health Education Program

Monday, November 2, 2015

Theresa Jackson Santo, PhD, MPH, CHES, Public Health Assessment Program, U.S. Army Institute of Public Health, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD
Laura Vasquez, MPH, Public Health Assessment Program, U.S. Army Institute of Public Health, Aberdeen Proving Ground - Edgewood Area, MD
Chizoba Chukwura, MPH, CPH, Public Health Assessment Division, U.S. Army Public Health Center, Oak Ridge Science and Education, APG-Edgewood, MD

The U.S. Army implemented a 6-month pilot health education program to increase Soldiers’ readiness through improvements in their sleep, activity and nutrition (SAN) behaviors.  In addition to health information, participating Soldiers received fitness trackers to facilitate SAN monitoring.


Approximately 1,500 Soldiers at three sites participated in the program. At 6-month follow-up, program evaluators collected surveys (N=679) and conducted 58 focus groups with 366 Soldiers to assess their experiences in the program and with the fitness tracker. 


Nearly half (44.2%) of participants reported using the fitness tracker daily.  Focus groups revealed the majority of participants defined the entire program by the fitness tracker and its step counting feature, yet could not readily define the core SAN behaviors. Frequently reported advantages of the tracker were that tracking steps provided a sense of accomplishment; that fitness trackers promoted competition which encouraged participants to take more steps and/or engage in optimal SAN; and that they were novel and exciting.  However, participants described many function, design, and implementation issues with the fitness tracker such as poor durability, perceived inaccuracies, problems syncing, difficulty tracking nutrition, and incompatibility with a military lifestyle.


Many participants stated that the fitness tracker was the most successful aspect of the program overall but reported a declining interest over time due to reported challenges. There are advantages and disadvantages to including fitness trackers in health education programming that must be carefully weighed when planning interventions.

Learning Areas:

Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe advantages of incorporating fitness trackers as a component of a military health education program. Describe disadvantages of incorporating fitness trackers as a component of a military health education program. Discuss lessons learned to inform future health education program planning and ways to maximize benefits of including fitness trackers in programming.

Keyword(s): Health Promotion and Education, Technology

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a subject matter expert in program evaluation and health promotion in the U.S. Department of Defense. I have worked conducting program evaluations of health education inititiaves in the U.S. Army for five years. I was integrally involved in all aspects of the program evaluation examining the inclusion of fitness trackers in this health education program.
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.