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Do you think fitness trackers can help to improve health?

PUBLISHED: 13:32 05 October 2016 | UPDATED: 13:34 05 October 2016

Woman running. Photo: PA

Woman running. Photo: PA

A new study by health experts has revealed that fitness trackers, such as Fitbits, are unlikely to make you healthier. What do you think of the findings?

Published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, the study, which tracked 800 people from Singapore aged between 21 and 65 for one year, found that wearable trackers are “unlikely to be a panacea for rising rates of chronic disease”.

The participants in the study were sorted into four different groups - a control group which had no trackers, a group with Fitbit Zip devices and two other groups who were given different trackers and also offered financial rewards for the first six months of the trial in the form of cash incentives or charitable donations.

Researchers measured their weekly levels of physical activity (MVPA) as well as their blood pressure, weight and cardio-respiratory fitness every few months.

During the first half of the study, they found that only the participants who were offered a cash incentive, showed increases in physical activity.

Garmin's Vivofit 2 fitness tracker.  Photo: Jae C. Hong)Garmin's Vivofit 2 fitness tracker. Photo: Jae C. Hong)

The mean daily step count among participants was 11,010 steps for the cash group, 9,280 in the charity group, and 8,550 for those wearing Fitbits.

After a year, the rates of physical activity for the cash incentive group had returned to the same levels recorded at the beginning of the trial and those in the Fitbit group showed improved levels of physical activity.

However the authors said that this increase was “probably not enough to generate noticeable improvements in any health outcomes”.

The authors wrote: “Although the trackers seem to have been effective at stemming a reduction in physical activity seen in participants in the control group at 12 months, we identified no evidence of improved health outcomes.”

Lead author Professor Eric Finkelstein from Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore said: “Over the course of the year-long study, volunteers who wore the activity trackers recorded no change in their step count but moderately increased their amount of aerobic activity by an average of 16 minutes per week.

“However, we found no evidence that the device promoted weight loss or improved blood pressure or cardiorespiratory fitness, either with or without financial incentives.”

• What do you think of the study’s findings? Let us know in the comments below.

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