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Study: Information from Wearables, not the Device, is what Motivates

February 1, 2019

February 1, 2019, Morristown, NJ – It’s February, and that means that most people’s New Year’s resolutions are about to hit that make-or-break period.

According to U.S. News & World Report, about 80 percent of resolutions fail by the second week of this month - so for those seeking to get healthy in 2019, the odds are against you.

You may be starting to think you need just a bit more motivation. Wearable technology is ranked #1 in American College of Sports Medicine’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2019, and you think, “Maybe a wearable fitness tracker will help,” as you start browsing the newest, coolest and most-enabled ones on the market.

But before you plunk down dough on a wearable that’s super-swaggy or has ALL the bells and whistles, keep in mind that it may not be the device itself that motivates you, but rather the information it provides you, according to researchers at Atlantic Sports Health Research Department of Atlantic Health System.

Trainer shows fitness tracker to woman on treadmill

A study performed at Atlantic Sports Health, based in Morristown, NJ, examining the effectiveness of wearable activity trackers showed that those who wore the devices over a period of time and had access to the data the devices collected, such as number of steps taken, averaged more active hours per day than those who did not have the data.

“Information is a powerful motivator,” said Damion Martins, MD, medical director of sports medicine and sports physical therapy for Atlantic Health System, who led the study. “Wearable trackers can be instrumental to one’s journey to fitness, but it’s truly the information that they convey about a person’s progress that helps keep them on track in a rewarding direction.”

“In short, as the proverb goes, ‘nothing succeeds like success,’ and if technology can help fuel the mind to positively impact our fitness goals – why not give it a try?” said co-author Adam Kahn, physician assistant and manager at Atlantic Sports Health. This is particularly timely since according to a 2018 survey by Accenture, consumer use of wearables has more than tripled since 2014.

The 14-week study consisted of 60 relatively healthy female and male participants between the ages of 25 and 55. The participants were Atlantic Health System employees, who held office or “desk” jobs.

Participants were randomly placed in one of three groups. For the first 30 days, Group A participants wore a device with knowledge of its function, and with access to the data measured by the device (such as steps taken).

Group B had knowledge of device’s function, but without access to the data through the corresponding digital app. From days 31 to 60, Groups A and B crossed over to either gain access to the device’s data (Group B) or lose it (Group A).

The third group, Group C, had knowledge of the device’s function but had no access to the data for the duration of the study.

The results showed that those who had access to information about their progress remained more active than those who only had the device. This was most evident with Group A, which averaged the most active hours per day throughout the duration of the study, but saw a decrease in active hours and steps taken once they lost access to that information.

The findings were similar to those in a recent study at the University of California, San Diego, which demonstrated that having access to performance indicators that could be viewed in real-time served as a motivator to activate change.

“I like the concept of wearables because it can boost a patient’s engagement and can help prevent costly chronic care episodes,” said Dr. Martins.

While many factors can impact an individual’s desire to become more physically active, the abundant availability of technology and its ability to hold the user accountable by providing instant feedback serves incredible potential toward healthier living, the study further concluded. The evaluation of the data provided by such devices may serve to better aid the users in optimizing and sustaining their engagement with physical activity.

About Atlantic Health System

Atlantic Health System, headquartered in Morristown, N.J., is an integrated health care delivery system powered by a workforce of more than 16,500 team members and 4,800 affiliated physicians dedicated to building healthier communities. The system serves a population of 5 million, with more than 400 sites of care, including six hospitals: Morristown Medical Center, Overlook Medical Center, Newton Medical Center, Chilton Medical Center, Hackettstown Medical Center and Goryeb Children’s Hospital.

In addition to the employed workforce, Atlantic Alliance, a Clinically Integrated Network represents more than 2,500 health care providers throughout northern and central NJ. This network includes 1,000 physicians and providers within the Atlantic Medical Group, as well as members of the Atlantic Accountable Care Organization and Optimus Healthcare Partners which work to enhance patient care delivery.

Atlantic Health System provides care for the full continuum of health care needs including 11 urgent care centers, Atlantic Rehabilitation and Atlantic Home Care and Hospice. Facilitating the connection between these services on both land and air is the transportation fleet of Atlantic Mobile Health.

Atlantic Health System leads the Healthcare Transformation Consortium, a partnership of seven regional hospitals and health systems dedicated to improving access and affordability and is a founding member of both the PIER Consortium – Partners in Innovation, Education, and Research – a streamlined clinical trial system that will expand access to groundbreaking research across six health systems in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and AllSpire Health Partners, a consortium of five leading health care organizations dedicated to serving patients, families and communities in New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

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