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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Mobile and Wearable Device Features that Matter in Promoting Physical Activity.

  • Author(s): Wang, Julie B
  • Cataldo, Janine K
  • Ayala, Guadalupe X
  • Natarajan, Loki
  • Cadmus-Bertram, Lisa A
  • White, Martha M
  • Madanat, Hala
  • Nichols, Jeanne F
  • Pierce, John P
  • et al.

BACKGROUND:As wearable sensors/devices become increasingly popular to promote physical activity (PA), research is needed to examine how and which components of these devices people use to increase their PA levels. AIMS:(1) To assess usability and level of engagement with the Fitbit One and daily SMS-based prompts in a 6-week PA intervention, and (2) to examine whether use/ level of engagement with specific intervention components were associated with PA change. METHODS:Data were analyzed from a randomized controlled trial that compared (1) a wearable sensor/ device (Fitbit One) plus SMS-based PA prompts, and (2) Fitbit One only, among overweight/ obese adults (N = 67). We calculated average scores from Likert-type response items that assessed usability and level of engagement with device features (e.g., tracker, website, mobile app, and SMS-based prompts), and assessed whether such factors were associated with change in steps/day (using Actigraph GT3X+). RESULTS:Participants reported the Fitbit One was easy to use and the tracker helped to be more active. Those who used the Fitbit mobile app (36%) vs. those who did not (64%) had an increase in steps at 6-week follow-up, even after adjusting for previous web/app use: +545 steps/ day (SE = 265) vs. -28 steps/ day (SE = 242) (p = .04). CONCLUSIONS:Level of engagement with the Fitbit One, particularly the mobile app, was associated with increased steps. Mobile apps can instantly display summaries of PA performance and could optimize self-regulation to activate change. More research is needed to determine whether such modalities might be cost-effective in future intervention research and practice.

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