by Sarah Pittman, BS Dietetics, University of Illinois
National Physical Fitness and Sports Month-Physical Activity Trackers
Physical activity wearables have increased in popularity in the last 8 years. It is calculated that 1 in 5 Americans own a physical activity tracker, while 1 in 10 Americans wear them daily, (mobilehealthnews.com, 1 in 5 Americans owns a wearble, 1 in 10 wears them daily). But the real question is, are there actual benefits to wearing a physical activity tracker? Are they even accurate? The research I conducted indicated that yes, physical activity trackers like fitbit, garmin, etc can have positive impacts on your health while also being relatively accurate in most aspects that the wearables can measure.
Do physical activity trackers impact your overall lifestyle and in the long term, impact your health?
A study conducted by Maher C, Ryan J, Ambrosi C, Edney S, found that most participants who wore a wearable physical activity tracker did tend to increase their physical activity as an outcome of wearing the device, (Users’ experiences of wearable activity trackers: a cross-sectional study, Maher C, Ryan J, Ambrosi C, Edney S). Another study stated that smart wristbands do influence an individuals feeling of empowerment, (Health empowerment through activity trackers: An empirical smart wrist band study, Nelson, Elizabeth C., Verhagen, Tilbert, Noordzij, Matthijs L).
How accurate are the wearable devices anyway?
“At present, mainstream devices are able to reliably measure heart rate, number of steps, distance, and sleep duration, which can be used as effective health evaluation indicators, but the measurement accuracy of energy consumption is still inadequate” (Evaluating the Validity of Current Mainstream Wearable Devices in Fitness Tracking Under Various Physical Activities, Xie J, Wen D, Liang L, Jia Y, Gao L, Lei J,). Another study found that activity trackers like Fitbit and Hexoskin smart shirt that heart rate was the most accurate while breathing rate; depth and volume were not as accurate, (Comparative Accuracy of a Wrist-Worn Activity Tracker and a Smart Shirt for Physical Activity Assessment, Montoye, Alexander H. K., Mitrzyk, Joe R., Molesky, Monroe J).
Overall, physical activity trackers have become a great way to get people motivated to exercise while also monitoring heart rate, sleep, etc. And although wearables have become more and more accurate in the recent years, it is always best to check these rates and values with a health professional if you have questions or concerns about your health, of course!
Do you, your clients, friends or family wear fitness trackers? How do you feel about them and do you think they help you or people you know with their healthy lifestyle?!
We would love to hear from you!!
Maher C, Ryan J, Ambrosi C, Edney S. Users’ experiences of wearable activity trackers: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health. 2017;17:880. doi:10.1186/s12889-017-4888-1
Nelson E, Verhagen T, Noordzij M. Health empowerment through activity trackers: An empirical smart wristband study. Computers In Human Behavior [serial online]. September 2016;62:364-374. Available from: Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson), Ipswich, MA. Accessed May 15, 2018.
PwC: 1 in 5 Americans owns a wearable, 1 in 10 wears them daily. MobiHealthNews, 2018. Available at http://www.mobihealthnews.com/37543/pwc-1-in-5-americans-owns-a-wearable-1-in-10-wears-them-daily. Accessed May 15, 2018.
Xie J, Wen D, Liang L, Jia Y, Gao L, Lei J. Evaluating the Validity of Current Mainstream Wearable Devices in Fitness Tracking Under Various Physical Activities: Comparative Study. Journal Of Medical Internet Research [serial online]. April 2018;20(4):1. Available from: Library & Information Science Source, Ipswich, MA. Accessed May 10, 2018.
This blog was posted by Robin Allen, a member of the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Nutrition and Wellness team that aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the MFLN Nutrition and Wellness concentration on our website on Facebook, on Twitter, and LinkedIn.