Wearing this will help you exercise more

Are you looking to adopt healthier exercise habits in 2021? If so, a new study has a suggestion you may want to consider. A team of international researchers from Australia, Portugal, Norway, and the US report that wearing an activity tracker or just using a fitness-oriented smartphone app can help encourage more robust and intense exercise sessions.

We all know how tough it can be at times to find the motivation for a vigorous visit to the gym. So, if wearing one of these devices or downloading an app can help make that journey even just a little bit easier it’s worth a try.

Study authors conclude that the influence of such devices and apps on exercise habits is ultimately “small to moderate.” In other words, purchasing one of these trackers and downloading an app won’t magically transform anyone into a dedicated fitness enthusiast. But, these gadgets can provide an additional push.

Researchers say doctors should consider advising or even prescribing activity trackers for patients who have decided they need to adopt a healthier workout routine. On that note, there’s certainly no shortage of people out there in need of a better exercise regiment. It’s estimated that over 25% of the planet’s adult population don’t get as much exercise as recommended. Consequently, inactivity is one of the top causes of death on a global scale.

For decades, programs designed to help people adopt and maintain healthier exercise habits have focused on elements like self-monitoring and feedback. Well, activity trackers connected to smartphone apps all include feedback and monitoring features. This coincidence, combined with the fact that virtually everyone nowadays owns a smartphone, is what motivated researchers to study this topic. 

To research the connection between these trackers and exercise, the study authors searched through relevant prior studies that had been released between 2007 and 2020. In total, 35 studies were selected for further assessment, with all of those projects encompassing 7,454 people. All of those people were between the ages of 18 and 65, and 28% were females.

Upon combining the data from 28 of those earlier studies, researchers quickly noted that participants who had used activity trackers or fitness apps, on average, took 1850 more steps per day than people who didn’t use such devices.

“Interventions using smartphone apps or activity trackers seem promising from a clinical and public health perspective, promoting a significant step count increase of 1850 steps/day,” the study reads.

“These results are of public health importance according to recent evidence showing that any physical activity, regardless of intensity, is associated with lower mortality risk in a dose-response manner and that an increase of 1700 steps/day is significantly associated with lower mortality rates.”

Seven additional data investigations produced further evidence indicating smartphone apps and activity trackers result in significantly higher levels of physical activity. 

Of course, not all apps and trackers are created equal. Fitness programs that included text message prompts, cues, and other tailored features were found to be most effective. Also, fitness programs that emphasized things like goal-setting, planning, and separating exercises depending on intensity/difficulty seemed to produce the healthiest exercise habits.

“Given the wide and increasing reach of smartphones, even modest improvements in physical activity can produce large effects at the population level,” the study authors conclude.

Modern technology is often blamed for making humanity lazier in general. There’s a whole lot of truth to that argument, but this study shows that technology can help us get off the couch as well. 

The full study can be found here, published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine.