Can wearable devices alone prompt a lifestyle change?



Wearable devices like Walkingspree’s Inspire and Fitbit\’s devices are trending in popularity as leading employers, insurers, and health organizations seek to promote healthy eating and routine fitness. This is because a healthier population reduces absenteeism and the overall cost of healthcare.


But a recent study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania shows wearable devices alone aren’t the answer. Trackers are facilitators to change, not drivers in and of themselves, and authors recommend integrating them into a larger behavioral change strategy to achieve lasting and sustainable benefits. These strategies might include friendly competitions, external motivations, and feedback loops, all of which are integrated into Walkingspree’s wellness programs.


While trackers alone might motivate the already fitness-minded, a multi-level strategy is required for those who want to engage less active individuals. To encourage use, trackers need to be affordable or covered by the employer, insurer, or plan coordinator. Challenges and other behavioral economic tools should also be adopted simultaneously to boost participation, such as team events that naturally invite peer-to-peer encouragement and praise.


Events should be designed to foster healthy competition, boost participation, and promote accountability. For example, a program might reward everyone meeting a daily step target as opposed to pitting the strongest or fastest against weaker players. Similarly, random drawings can even the playing field by rewarding anyone reaching minimum activity levels.


Lottery-style feedback is shown to encourage individual players even more than past success or the promise of future rewards. Programs can further help users form positive behavior patterns by letting them know what they could have won if they had achieved a goal.


Finally, to change long-term behavior, a device needs to provide accurate data and measurements. Technologies that aim to gauge sleep patterns or heart rate aren’t yet up to par when it comes to precision. But accelerometers, like those in the Inspire, when paired with a strategic behavioral change strategy, deliver the accuracy and structure needed to promote positive lifestyle change.

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