Users' experiences of wearable activity trackers: a cross-sectional study

BMC Public Health. 2017 Nov 15;17(1):880. doi: 10.1186/s12889-017-4888-1.


Background: Wearable activity trackers offer considerable promise for helping users to adopt healthier lifestyles. This study aimed to explore users' experience of activity trackers, including usage patterns, sharing of data to social media, perceived behaviour change (physical activity, diet and sleep), and technical issues/barriers to use.

Methods: A cross-sectional online survey was developed and administered to Australian adults who were current or former activity tracker users. Results were analysed descriptively, with differences between current and former users and wearable brands explored using independent samples t-tests, Mann-Whitney, and chi square tests.

Results: Participants included 200 current and 37 former activity tracker users (total N = 237) with a mean age of 33.1 years (SD 12.4, range 18-74 years). Fitbit (67.5%) and Garmin devices (16.5%) were most commonly reported. Participants typically used their trackers for sustained periods (5-7 months) and most intended to continue usage. Participants reported they had improved their physical activity (51-81%) more commonly than they had their diet (14-40%) or sleep (11-24%), and slightly more participants reported to value the real time feedback (89%) compared to the long-term monitoring (78%). Most users (70%) reported they had experienced functionality issues with their devices, most commonly related to battery life and technical difficulties.

Conclusions: Results suggest users find activity trackers appealing and useful tools for increasing perceived physical activity levels over a sustained period.

Keywords: Fitness; Health behaviour; Measurement; Motion sensors; Pedometry; Physical activity assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Australia
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / psychology
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Fitness Trackers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sleep
  • Social Media / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Wearable Electronic Devices / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult