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The Utility of Wearable Fitness Trackers and Implications for Increased Engagement: An Exploratory, Mixed Methods Observational Study


The Utility of Wearable Fitness Trackers and Implications for Increased Engagement: An Exploratory, Mixed Methods Observational Study

Zakkoyya H Lewis et al. Digit Health.


Objective: To explore which features of wearable fitness trackers are used and deemed helpful.

Methods: Forty-seven participants took part in an online survey. All participants were over 18 years of age and owned a wearable device that objectively measured physical activity and provided feedback. The survey included questions related to the acceptance of different features of wearables, and exercise information, self-efficacy, exercise identity, motivation, and general demographics of the wearer. Seven participants took part in focus groups in an effort to gain further insight into the acceptability and utilization of wearables. Data were examined using means and frequencies.

Results: Participants were mostly young adults (18-24 years, 48.9%), White (63.8%), female (80.9%), overweight (body mass index 26.0±6.2), students (42.6%) and generally healthy. Fitbit was the most commonly owned wearable device (42.6%). Most participants had owned their device for 6-12 months (27.7%) and they wore their device daily (80.9%). The most commonly used features were rewards/badges (59.6%), notifications (52.2%), and challenges (42.6%). The features that were reportedly the most helpful, however, were motivational cues (83.3%), general health information (82.4%), and challenges (75.0%).

Conclusions: The reported use and helpfulness ratings of various features of wearables appeared to vary based on the wearer's gender, race/ethnicity, exercise goal, exercise proficiency, preferred type of exercise, and psychosocial metrics but the results are inconclusive. Future research should evaluate whether engagement with certain features is strongly associated with improved outcomes and whether the use of these features is significantly associated with wearer characteristics.

Keywords: Wearable; activity monitor; activity tracker; adults; exercise; physical activity.

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