Wearable tech developments for fitness and health applications sparked a wave of wristbands, headbands, necklaces and lanyards, pins and brooches, and belt packs in the past few years. Starting with step counters and thermometers, an ever-wider variety of biosensors measure biologic indicators. That’s interesting and fine, but in general, our population still eats too much and doesn’t exercise enough. Obesity rates and the incidence of diabetes and related diseases continue to grow unabated. Sedentary lifestyles are killing us.
It may be a matter of preaching to the choir. It may be that the already healthy and fit buy the new fitness and health wearable tech devices to reinforce positive behaviors. But what about people who don’t work out and don’t take active steps to improve their health — pun fully intended? Researchers at England’s Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit questioned whether available wearables were measuring the right behaviors. They wanted to know if there were many — or even any — devices that measure unhealthy activity.
A study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research summarized the Loughborough findings. The team found 146 wearable fitness and health tech devices. Of that group, 82 were scrutinized. The others either weren’t available or weren’t useful or adaptable for self-monitoring. Of the 82 devices capable of self-monitoring physical activity or the lack of it, 73 tracked activity and 9 tracked sedentary time. However, the researchers found no published studies in which the devices were used for self-monitoring behavior change.
The researchers conclude first there is a need for more devices that measure sedentary time, not just activity. They also suggest that as wearable fitness and health tech devices become more available they will be used in behavior change interventions. Rather than report that someone took 10,000 steps, perhaps devices would report motionless minutes or a ratio of activity to inactivity.