Need motivation to exercise? A wearable activity tracker might just do the trick

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  • Many people around the world are not as physically active as they should be
  • Wearable activity trackers and fitness apps may be a solution
  • Researchers found that such apps and devices promote physical activity

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a quarter of the world’s adult population do not meet the global recommended levels of physical activity. 

WHO added that if more people increased their physical activity, up to five million deaths could be avoided, as inactivity is regarded as one of the leading causes of death.

A group of researchers may have come up with a moderately effective solution. They published a review on whether or not fitness apps and wearable activity trackers effectively boost physical activity.

Mobile motivation for mobility

For their analysis, the researchers pooled data from eight databases of studies published between 2007 and 2020. From this data pool, 35 studies (with 7 454 healthy participants) were used for the review – the first of its kind. 

The findings suggest that mobile fitness apps and activity trackers do improve activity levels, and it was also found that apps and trackers with text-messaging and personalisation features were even more effective. 

Fewer women than men involved

Unfortunately, only 28% of the participants comprised women, which means that the findings of the review may not be entirely representative of both sexes.

The researchers said: “Interventions using smartphone apps or activity trackers seem promising from a clinical and public health perspective, promoting a significant step count increase of 1 850 steps/day.”

They added that “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 1 700 steps/day is significantly associated with lower mortality rates.”

The scientists emphasised the fact that smartphones are used widely, and that their use can be key to improving activity levels in populations globally. 

READ | Follow exercise guidelines and you'll live longer, study says

READ | The benefits of skipping your way through your exercise routine

READ | Working off your quarantine weight gain

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