Can Digital Fitness Trackers Get You Moving?

Confession: I’m a little obsessed with the pedometer in my smartphone. It’s fun to carry it with me and see how many steps I take when exercising or grocery shopping or carrying laundry across my house. I aim for 10,000 steps per day, but I don’t always hit the mark, and I’ve wondered if switching to a digital fitness tracker would push me to go the extra mile. So a small study published in the September American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM) caught my attention.

The study’s researchers wanted to see if digital fitness trackers would increase physical activity among older women. The trackers are tiny gadgets that come in wearable styles such as wristbands, watches, and pendants, as well as hand-held versions you can clip onto a sleeve or slip into a pocket. In addition to the number of steps you take, a digital fitness tracker can also measure and record how fast you walk and how far, for how long, and at what intensity. In the AJPM study, the researchers used a brand of tracker called Fitbit and an accompanying web application that evaluates and even graphs recorded information.

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