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features

Research: Physical activity monitors boost activity levels

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have conducted a meta analysis of all relevant research and found that the body of evidence shows an impact

Published in Fit Tech 2023 issue 1

Physical activity monitors, such as fitness apps and wearable activity trackers, that provide direct feedback to users do help to boost activity levels in adults, according to a summary of the evidence, published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ).

The effects are small to moderate – equal to 1,235 extra steps a day and almost 50 extra minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week – and the certainty of evidence ranged from low to moderate. But at a time when many adults don’t meet recommended activity levels, these findings suggest that these devices may have a real impact.

Looking at the evidence
Modern physical activity monitoring devices often claim to change people’s behaviour, but different studies looking at their effectiveness have reached different conclusions.

To address this uncertainty, researchers in Denmark searched databases for trials comparing activity levels in adults who received feedback from physical activity monitors with control interventions in which no feedback was provided.

They found 121 randomised controlled trials involving 16,743 mainly healthy 18 to 65 year olds. Most of the trials were European (31 per cent) or North American (40 per cent) with a median intervention period of 12 weeks. The median age of study participants was 47 years, with a higher proportion of women (median 77 per cent) than men.

Overall, the interventions showed a moderate effect on physical activity (equivalent to 1,235 daily steps), a small effect on moderate to vigorous physical activity (equivalent to 48.5 weekly minutes) and a small but insignificant effect on sedentary time (equal to 9.9 daily minutes).

For all outcomes, physical activity monitors that provided feedback were more effective than those that did not provide feedback.

More research needed
The researchers acknowledged that the included trials varied in design and methods and say the results may not be applicable to lower income countries. This is, however, the first systematic review to summarise the entire body of evidence across different patient populations and different types of physical activity monitors.

As such, the researchers said this study “provides evidence for using physical activity monitors for enhancing physical activity and moderate to vigorous physical activity at a time when large, feasible, and scalable interventions are urgently needed.”

The researchers called for future studies to investigate how physical activity monitors can be used in combination with other behavioural change strategies or how they might affect sedentary time.

Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
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Physical activity monitors boost activity levels

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have conducted a meta analysis of all relevant research and found that the body of evidence shows an impact
Editor's letter

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Content providers have been hugely active in the fit tech market since the start of the pandemic. We expect the industry to move on from delivering these services on a ‘broadcast-only’ basis as two-way coaching becomes the new USP
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The future of sports and fitness are dependent on the climate. Our goal is to positively influence the future of our planet by instilling a global vision of wellbeing and a sense of collective action
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We don’t just create the technology and bail – we support our clients’ ongoing hybridisation efforts
Fit Tech People

Anantharaman Pattabiraman

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When you’re undertaking fitness activities, unless you’re on a stationary bike, in most cases it’s not safe or necessary to be tied to a screen, especially a small screen
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features

Research: Physical activity monitors boost activity levels

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have conducted a meta analysis of all relevant research and found that the body of evidence shows an impact

Published in Fit Tech 2023 issue 1

Physical activity monitors, such as fitness apps and wearable activity trackers, that provide direct feedback to users do help to boost activity levels in adults, according to a summary of the evidence, published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ).

The effects are small to moderate – equal to 1,235 extra steps a day and almost 50 extra minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week – and the certainty of evidence ranged from low to moderate. But at a time when many adults don’t meet recommended activity levels, these findings suggest that these devices may have a real impact.

Looking at the evidence
Modern physical activity monitoring devices often claim to change people’s behaviour, but different studies looking at their effectiveness have reached different conclusions.

To address this uncertainty, researchers in Denmark searched databases for trials comparing activity levels in adults who received feedback from physical activity monitors with control interventions in which no feedback was provided.

They found 121 randomised controlled trials involving 16,743 mainly healthy 18 to 65 year olds. Most of the trials were European (31 per cent) or North American (40 per cent) with a median intervention period of 12 weeks. The median age of study participants was 47 years, with a higher proportion of women (median 77 per cent) than men.

Overall, the interventions showed a moderate effect on physical activity (equivalent to 1,235 daily steps), a small effect on moderate to vigorous physical activity (equivalent to 48.5 weekly minutes) and a small but insignificant effect on sedentary time (equal to 9.9 daily minutes).

For all outcomes, physical activity monitors that provided feedback were more effective than those that did not provide feedback.

More research needed
The researchers acknowledged that the included trials varied in design and methods and say the results may not be applicable to lower income countries. This is, however, the first systematic review to summarise the entire body of evidence across different patient populations and different types of physical activity monitors.

As such, the researchers said this study “provides evidence for using physical activity monitors for enhancing physical activity and moderate to vigorous physical activity at a time when large, feasible, and scalable interventions are urgently needed.”

The researchers called for future studies to investigate how physical activity monitors can be used in combination with other behavioural change strategies or how they might affect sedentary time.

Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
More features
Editor's letter

Into the fitaverse

Fitness is already among the top three markets in the metaverse, with new technology and partnerships driving real growth and consumer engagement that looks likely to spill over into health clubs, gyms and studios
Fit Tech people

Ali Jawad

Paralympic powerlifter and founder, Accessercise
Users can easily identify which facilities in the UK are accessible to the disabled community
Fit Tech people

Hannes Sjöblad

MD, DSruptive
We want to give our users an implantable tool that allows them to collect their health data at any time and in any setting
Fit Tech people

Jamie Buck

Co-founder, Active in Time
We created a solution called AiT Voice, which turns digital data into a spoken audio timetable that connects to phone systems
Profile

Fahad Alhagbani: reinventing fitness

Let’s live in the future to improve today
Opinion

Building on the blockchain

For small sports teams looking to compete with giants, blockchain can be a secret weapon explains Lars Rensing, CEO of Protokol
Innovation

Bold move

We ended up raising US$7m in venture capital from incredible investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, Primetime Partners, and GingerBread Capital
App analysis

Check your form

Sency’s motion analysis technology is allowing users to check their technique as they exercise. Co-founder and CEO Gal Rotman explains how
Profile

New reality

Sam Cole, CEO of FitXR, talks to Fit Tech about taking digital workouts to the next level, with an immersive, virtual reality fitness club
Profile

Sohail Rashid

My vision was to create a platform that could improve the sport for lifters at all levels and attract more people, similar to how Strava, Peloton and Zwift have in other sports
Ageing

Reverse Ageing

Many apps help people track their health, but Humanity founders Peter Ward and Michael Geer have put the focus on ageing, to help users to see the direct repercussions of their habits. They talk to Steph Eaves
App analysis

Going hybrid

Workout Anytime created its app in partnership with Virtuagym. Workout Anytime’s Greg Maurer and Virtuagym’s Hugo Braam explain the process behind its creation
Research

Physical activity monitors boost activity levels

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have conducted a meta analysis of all relevant research and found that the body of evidence shows an impact
Editor's letter

Two-way coaching

Content providers have been hugely active in the fit tech market since the start of the pandemic. We expect the industry to move on from delivering these services on a ‘broadcast-only’ basis as two-way coaching becomes the new USP
Fit Tech People

Laurent Petit

Co-founder, Active Giving
The future of sports and fitness are dependent on the climate. Our goal is to positively influence the future of our planet by instilling a global vision of wellbeing and a sense of collective action
Fit Tech People

Adam Zeitsiff

CEO, Intelivideo
We don’t just create the technology and bail – we support our clients’ ongoing hybridisation efforts
Fit Tech People

Anantharaman Pattabiraman

CEO and co-founder, Auro
When you’re undertaking fitness activities, unless you’re on a stationary bike, in most cases it’s not safe or necessary to be tied to a screen, especially a small screen
Fit Tech People

Mike Hansen

Managing partner, Endorphinz
We noticed a big gap in the market – customers needed better insights but also recommendations on what to do, whether that be customer acquisition, content creation, marketing and more
More features