Researchers from the University of Sydney have found that daily use of mobile apps and physical activity trackers can help people to increase their levels of physical activity – with study participants increasing their daily steps on average by 1850 steps per day. Of particular interest, devices that also included text-messaging or personalised features were linked to even greater increases.
The research showed that physical activity trackers or smartphone apps can play a significant role in increasing daily physical activity, which is linked to better overall health outcomes. Increasing physical activity can reduce the risk of, or help manage chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Examples of wearable physical activity trackers and watches include brands such as Fitbit, Apple, Garmin and Galaxy. Each device comes with its own downloadable smartphone app, which can be set up to send text messages and personalised, motivational reminders. The research shows the importance of using these features, as activation and personalisation resulted in higher levels of physical activity.
If you don’t have a wearable device or watch, there are many Smartphone apps such as MyFitnessPal and Move which can also track activity and provide individual reminders and motivation.
The results of the systematic review and meta-analysis, which were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, were drawn from 28 studies and included data from 7454 healthy participants, all aged 18-65.
“Our study is the first to show that activity trackers and mobile apps currently being used by consumers are indeed effective in improving physical activity, with an average increase of around 2000 steps per day,” said lead author Dr Liliana Laranjo from the University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health and Westmead Applied Research Centre (WARC).
Recent data from Deloitte shows that 91 per cent of Australian’s own a Smartphone and 22 per cent own a fitness tracker. Given the wide and increasing reach of these devices, even small improvements in physical activity could result in wide-scale effects at the population level.
Further studies over a longer duration that investigate more diverse populations are recommended to ascertain long-term effectiveness and sustained engagement with devices.