Pedometers are not new, but recent buzz around consumer health and wellness has not only caused a spike in their use, but also resulted in newer pedometers with additional functionality coming to market. One such example is Fitlinxx’s Actiped, an activity monitor able to record steps taken, calories burned, distance traveled, and activity time. But one can’t help and wonder whether activity monitors actually work.
A recent publication titled, “An Internet-Based Virtual Coach to Promote Physical Activity Adherence in Overweight Adults: Randomized Controlled Trial (J Med Internet Res 2012;14(1):e1),” may help provide insight into whether devices such as Actiped are effective. While the study specifically sought to investigate whether virtual health coaching helps maintain activity levels in overweight patients, compared to website-based tool, the Actiped was used in both study groups (figure below).
The study showed that, “The percentage change in step count between those in the intervention and control arms, from the start to the end, did not reach the threshold for significance (2.9% vs –12.8% respectively, P = .07). However, repeated measures analysis showed a significant difference when comparing percentage changes in step counts between control and intervention participants over all time points (analysis of variance, P = .02).” The study concluded that, “The virtual coach was beneficial in maintaining activity level. The long-term benefits and additional applications of this technology warrant further study.”
An interesting study result is the drop in number of steps taken in both groups after three weeks of wearing Actiped (figure below). This is likely not the result of Actiped at all, but rather, speaks to the difficulty in maintaining high engagement levels and positively impacting longer term behavior change.
Although people in the intervention group rebounded from the initial drop in number of steps taken, both groups reported additional benefit as a result of participating in the study: “Both intervention and control participants reported having benefited from taking part in the study (28/30, 93% and 28/31, 90% respectively, P = .67). Self-reported changes by intervention and control participants included exercising more frequently (25/29, 86% vs 21/29, 72%, P = .19) and improved diet and eating habits (13/29, 45% vs 6/29, 21%, P = .05), respectively.”
Future studies will certainly continue to investigate the effect of virtual health coaching independently, and in conjunction with health and wellness devices. Comparing pedometers or activity monitors to one another will help reduce confounding variables in those studies, but also provide consumers with more product effectiveness information. So what are your thoughts? Have you used an activity monitor or pedometer? Was your experience positive?
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