Fitness Tracking Devices Fail to Improve Overall Health

Share this content:
This study found that there were no signs of step increases in short-term or any health effects in the intermediate-term.
This study found that there were no signs of step increases in short-term or any health effects in the intermediate-term.

HealthDay News -- According to a study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, there was no evidence that fitness tracking devices actually raised activity levels enough to improve overall health, even with financial rewards.

The year-long study involved 800 full-time workers from 13 employers in Singapore. Workers were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 groups: a Fitbit, a Fitbit plus receiving cash, a Fitbit plus charity-based incentives or a control group. Incentives were tied to meeting weekly step goals. 

In addition to steps, the researchers measured levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and health outcomes, including weight, systolic blood pressure, aerobic capacity and quality of life.

At 6 months, the cash group was more active than the control group. It was also the only group with an increase in daily steps compared with baseline measurements. In addition, 88% of the cash group continued to use the Fitbit at 6 months, versus 62% of the Fitbit-only and charity groups. But when incentives were discontinued, only 10% of participants from all groups were still using the device.

By the end of the 12-month study period, the incentive group's activity levels "not only went back to baseline, they actually did a little worse," lead author Eric Finkelstein, PhD, a professor at the Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School, told HealthDay. "Our study calls into question all of it: We don't really find evidence of step increases in the short term and there's no evidence that there's any health effects in the intermediate term."

References

Finkelstein EA, et al. "Effectiveness Of Activity Trackers With And Without Incentives To Increase Physical Activity (TRIPPA): A Randomised Controlled Trial". The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. 2016. doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(16)30284-4. [Epub ahead of print]

Monroe CM. "Valuable Steps Ahead: Promoting Physical Activity With Wearables And Incentives". The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. 2016. doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(16)30264-9. [Epub ahead of print]

Free E-Newsletter