Does Fitness Tracker Actually Work For You?
With the passage of time and development of technology, makers of the fitness tracker made you believe that all that exists between you and the motivation to get up off your couch and get fit is their “smart wearable device“.
But according to a recent study conducted in the UK by researchers suggests that, in certain circumstances, fitness trackers can end up doing just the opposite i.e. becoming a really de-motivating factor, once the initial novelty of wearing a fitness tracker wears off.
An eight-week study was conducted by researchers at Brunel University London to investigate whether fitness trackers/ wearables could motivate young teenagers to take more exercise.
The study included school children of both genders, aged 13 to 14, coming from two different schools of UK. In this challenge the teenagers were asked to wear a Fitbit Charge wristband for eight weeks; to use the Fitbit app; and to take part in surveys as well as focus groups, before and after the trial period ended, responding to questions about how they felt regarding exercising and using the device.
The researchers expected the fitness trackers to have a positive impact on encouraging teens to exercise across a range of different forms of motivation, and further hypothesizing it would help avoid kids feeling demotivated regarding physical activity.
An initial “novelty” bump in physical activity was recorded by the researchers in some participants “for the first few weeks”, however, the results of the complete study were the quiet opposite of encouraging — with participants on the whole reported feeling less confident regarding their competence at exercising, and eventually discouraged from doing so.
“It was consistently reported that after about 4 weeks pupils became bored with the Fitbit,” the researchers write. “This evidence suggests that though the Fitbit serves to promote physical activity, for the pupils in this study, the Fitbit may have only produced modest and short-term effects.”
The participants also reported Fitbit’s non-personalized 10,000 steps as pressurizing and unfair- as it generated the feeling of lack of ability or guilt among participants, which in turn acted as a disincentive factor for taking more exercise. While some of the participants felt that they had very less choice over how to engage in physical activity — which also ended up being a demotivating factor. Also, pressure from competition with peers encouraged via in-app comparison in a social leaderboard scenario, also ultimately negatively affected participants’ motivation to exercise.
“Data from this study demonstrated that though clear potential exists, healthy lifestyle technologies negatively impact young people’s motivation for physical activity,” the researchers write. “Competition, peer comparison and social comparison to normative predetermined targets result in only short-term motivational effects.”