HealthDay News – There’s no evidence that fitness tracking devices raise activity levels enough to improve health, even with financial rewards, according to a study published online in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
The year-long study involved 800 full-time workers from 13 employers in Singapore. Workers were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 groups: a Fitbit, a Fitbit plus receiving cash, a Fitbit plus charity-based incentives, or a control group. Incentives were tied to meeting weekly step goals. In addition to steps, the researchers measured levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and health outcomes, including weight, systolic blood pressure, aerobic capacity, and quality of life.
At 6 months, the cash group was more active than the control group. It was also the only group with an increase in daily steps compared with baseline measurements. In addition, 88% of the cash group continued to use the Fitbit at 6 months, vs 62% of the Fitbit-only and charity groups. But when incentives were discontinued, only 10% of participants from all groups were still using the device.
By the end of the 12-month study period, the incentive group’s activity levels “not only went back to baseline, they actually did a little worse,” lead author Eric Finkelstein, PhD, a professor at the Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School, told HealthDay. “Our study calls into question all of it: We don’t really find evidence of step increases in the short term, and there’s no evidence that there’s any health effects in the intermediate term.”
- Finkelstein EA, Haaland BA, Bilger M, et al. Effectiveness of activity trackers with and without incentives to increase physical activity (TRIPPA): a randomized controlled trial. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2016 Oct 4. doi:10.1016/S2213-8587(16)30284-4 [Epub ahead of print].
- Monroe CM. Valuable steps ahead: promoting physical activity with wearables and incentives. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2016 Oct 4. doi:10.1016/S2213-8587(16)30264-9 [Epub ahead of print].