A review published in the Frontiers in Public Health journal reviewed the literature surrounding the potential association between physical activity interventions that involve the use of fitness technology and behavioral change techniques. The review also sought to determine whether potential health benefits from these interventions would be long-term.
Extensive research studies have undoubtedly demonstrated that there are psychological, cognitive, and physical health-related benefits associated with exercise. Additionally, previous research has shown that levels of inactivity rise as cohorts age and that a sedentary (lack of physical activity) lifestyle is more common among individuals with low socioeconomic statuses. It is vital to note that ensuring that exercise is accessible and achievable for all groups regardless of socioeconomic status (SES) is a chief public health goal; coordinated efforts should be mobilized to deal with barriers with marginalized populations such as inactive individuals with low SES and older adults. Recently, fitness technology and fitness tracking applications (apps) have gained traction as they can be easily downloaded onto a smartphone and provide instant feedback and measurement of the length and intensity of a workout. Though fitness tracking technology is now used widely, whether this usage translates directly into an increase in the quality or levels of exercise long-term require further investigation. This review was conducted with the primary purpose of assessing the measurement of exercise and promoting it via using fitness technologies and behavioral change strategies.
Examples of behavioral change strategies include rewards, social support, feedback, and setting goals, noting barriers and problem solving among others. The review cited a meta-analysis (a study of multiple studies) of 30 strategies that were employed to increase exercise levels; ultimately interventions that incorporated behavioral change elements were linked to increases in weight loss and exercise rates when compared to interventions that did not.
It is evident that many behavioral change strategies have been incorporated into fitness technology, however, it is not clear how often they are normally used by consumers. The authors also recommend adding the following behavior change techniques to fitness technology: recognizing barriers to exercise, altering environmental factors, and action planning to encourage inactive individuals and those who are unsure how to access or increase exercise levels. It turns out that fitness technology has the potential to increase exercise levels in the long-term due to improved feelings of having more control over one’s exercise and self-efficacy (belief in one’s ability to achieve certain goals or succeed in a situation).
Written By: Melissa Booker