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PURPOSE: Wearable devices for tracking health and fitness related activities are thought to motivate individuals to participate in regular exercise. It has been suggested that personal activity trackers can empower individuals to create and keep fitness goals. Therefore, this research was conducted to examine whether using a fitness tracking device in combination with working towards a given goal, self-reporting daily steps, and receiving motivational emails would increase physical activity. METHODS: 44 participants (13 males, 31 females) were recruited and randomized into either an experimental (goal setting) or control group (n=22 per group). Participants reported step counts every day for four weeks using an online form. After the first week of data collection, daily step count averages were calculated and goals were given to participants in the experimental group, by adding 500 steps to their daily average. Participants were notified of this goal and sent motivational emails each week, while participants in the control group were not given a specific goal or motivation. RESULTS: Week one step count averages were similar between groups (8460.9 ± 3329.8 steps for the control group and 8783.6 ± 4317.6 steps for the experimental group). Step counts declined in both groups across the three-week period. The week three average was 7731.8 ± 4231.5 steps for the control group and 7642.1 ± 4208.9 steps for the experimental group. Despite email encouragement in the experimental group, only 40.9 percent met their given goal in week one. By the third week, only 27.3 percent of participants in the experimental group met their goal, missing this goal by an average of 1595.88 ± 3294 steps. Participants reported that the use of these devices encouraged them to participate in physical activity (44.8 percent of the control group and 63.7 percent of the experimental group) despite the declining step count trend observed. 69.6 percent of the control group and 72.7 percent of the experimental group reported that they would continue to wear a fitness tracking device outside of the study. CONCLUSION: There was no significant difference between experimental and control groups with their adherence to the program and step count levels throughout each week. Both groups on average did not reach the widely accepted recommendation of 10,000 steps per day. Interestingly, the majority of participants reported that they still plan to use a fitness tracking device in the future and consider them to be a piece of motivational technology.

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