When a new technology immerses, people usually try and figure out if the product is worth buying and if it actually fulfills their needs. Fitbit’s message has been to promote a healthy lifestyle on the go, and their technology shows that it is easy to start being healthy by just taking steps. From this, there have been societal outcomes that have both positive and negative impacts from buying these products. These impacts have been studied and entail data and results that makes the information credible. It is ironic however that technology is being used in order to be active, since it was once thought to stay away from it in order to be fit. Furthermore, Fitbits and wearable fitness trackers alike are showing that it is possible to be active and stay connected simultaneously.
One study that had been conducted was to see the effectiveness of activity trackers with and without incentives in order to increase physical activity. In this experiment, participants were divided into four groups: control (no tracker or incentives), Fitbit Zip activity tracker, tracker plus charity incentive, or tracker plus cash incentive ($620). The incentives were tied to weekly steps, as well as moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) minutes per week. The results were recorded on an intention-to-treat basis at 6 months and 12 months. Other outcomes measured were health-related outcomes which include weight, blood pressure, and quality-of-life measures (Finkelstein, Haaland, Bilger, Sahasranaman, Sloan, Nang, Evenson). Ultimately, after the experiment, the most effective at increasing MVPA minutes per week at 6 months was with a cash incentive. At 12 months however, the activity tracker with or without charity incentives were effective at reducing the amount of MVPA min per week compared to the control group. So, from this data, trackers are unlikely to have a great enough health benefit to have a solution for chronic disease. Furthermore, the group that wore Fitbits with no incentive showed no improvement in physical activity going from their 6th month to their 12th month, and in fact 90% of participants abandoned their Fitbit by month 12. So, this can be a negative impact on a person because buying the product did not help their lifestyles and they just wasted money. However, for the group with the cash incentive, the study showed that there was a significant increase in activity from using Fitbits despite there being no evidence of improvements in health outcomes. So, these results state that people will usually use this technology for a long period of time if they have a cash incentive.
Best Fitness Trackers (Source)
Although some studies feel that fitness trackers are not worth the money and do not push people to be active, other studies seem to find that these technologies are good for personal health and are worth it. A study was performed in order to perceive the effectiveness of fitness devices, and it was proved successful (Findley). Participants were interviewed on their fitness tracker usage, and found that the main effect that they have on people is that they are great to use for motivation and accurate results. Having a fitness tracker allows people to set fitness goals, such as amount of steps in a day, in order to push them to be healthier. This is a very positive impact on people because it pushes customers to walk and be active, and is able to save a person money by not being forced to buy gym equipment. Motivation is also used within fitness devices because there is a strong communication aspect through them. Specifically, people are able to compete against their friends and co-workers in order to walk the most steps or be active for the most time. Wearable fitness trackers have a positive impact on company’s because some give monetary incentives to their employees for walking a certain amount of steps (Findley). People also feel that a device such as a Fitbit is very accurate in measuring the distance a person actually walks, which is a reason that the brand is able to stay relevant as more technological competition arises. However, a negative impact that was brought up from the interviewer was that the technology caused people to eat more because the data said they “needed” to. This did not seem to be a real problem for the participants because they found that physical activity was more important to them. Also, the participants mentioned that some people lose motivation when wearing these fitness trackers, however the reasoning behind this is that they lose focus and just have a lack of drive. So, to combat this, it is suggested to set long-term fitness goals to keep the activity and technology use on track. Specifically, it is important that there is not just a goal in mind, but a specific plan on how to get there.
Fitness trackers are not only for motivation, but also cause communication between people. In a study, it was discovered that people who wear fitness devices have a specific way of communicating with others that have and do not have the fitness devices, and also has a positive impact showing the vital role of communication in sharing and encouraging physical activity. Fitness tracker users tend to communicate their fitness data in three main ways: face-to-face sharing, sharing via traditional technologies (such as text messaging, photos, etc.), and sharing via social media (Kreitzberg, Dailey, Vogt, Robinson, Zhu). Some people do not talk to others about their trackers unless they are asked first, and specifically, the participant was asked “how do you keep so skinny?” So, the participant responded by physically showing the person her fitness data that was tracked by her device, as well as explained her routine. The participant showed her data as a sign of proof for what she does. So, even if the conversation is face-to-face, the technology is still being used and shown in some way. When communicating via traditional technologies, when a user wants to show their fitness data to other people, they will “screen shot” their data and text the information to their friend. Doing this allows people to learn about other people’s routine and allows people to educate themselves on other ways to be healthy. The third way to communicate is via social media. Some people post their fitness data on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, which make it very easy to share their information with others. This can be used as motivation for others because some groups have Facebook pages, and people will tend to post their weight loss and fitness progress in order to motivate themselves and the others that follow that page. So, it can be seen that face-to-face communication, traditional technologies, and social media can all be positive impacts to a person’s communication, because ultimately people are able to learn about other possible workouts and allows the person a better chance to find out the best work out regime for them.
Fitbits and other wearable fitness trackers are able to have an impact on society as a whole. Specifically, Fitbits are being used in order to combat the “obesity epidemic” in American society. In a study focusing on people aged 19 to 20 years old, participant’s tracked their activity and diets using Fitbits and used Twitter for messaging for 2 months (Chung, Skinner, Hasty, Perrin). Dietary intake, physical activity, and Tweets were all tracked daily, and a survey was completed at the end of month 1 and month 2. Also, the participants were divided up into two groups, one group of people considered “overweight” and another group considered “healthy weight”. From using Fitbit’s for 2 months, results show that participants increased their fruit and vegetable intake by 92% and decreased their sugar-sweetened beverage intake by 67% (Chung, Skinner, Hasty, Perrin). The experiment also used daily challenges for the participants, which allowed them to compete against each other to walk the most steps in a day. Results showed that more steps usually occurred during the week rather than the weekend. Also, it is important to note that all participants used their Fitbit’s and most self-monitored their activity every day for the experiment, which states that two months is a good timeframe where less people would abandon their device. Additionally, it was measured that the overweight participants logged in their food diary 82% of the day, compared to 73% of the day for healthy weight participants (Chung, Skinner, Hasty, Perrin). This is positive because it shows that people who are overweight are willing to use this technology in order to be fit. So, research shows that from a societal standpoint, Fitbits are able to be used to fight against obesity and encourage living a healthier lifestyle. This is good for product developers because if technology is able to help an issue like obesity, then there is a chance that it can be used for other societal issues as well.
Fitbit’s and wearable fitness trackers have been able to peak curiosity about fitness products to see if they work and if are really worth it. There are both positive and negative impacts of having this technology, however the overall goal of a healthier lifestyle is one that can improve society. Fitbit’s have been able to set a high standard for fitness devices, and they are continuing to update their technology to cater to consumer needs. Technology is not just able to be enjoyed sitting down, rather it can be used wherever a person goes and for many different opportunities.
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Chung, A.E., Skinner, A.C., Hasty, S.E., & Perrin, E.M. (2016). Tweeting to health: A novel mhealth intervention using fitbits and twitter to foster healthy lifestyles. Clinical Pediatrics, 1-7. Doi: 10.1177/0009922816653385
Findley, K. (2015). Perceived effectiveness of fitness trackers among adults. Current Issues in Health. 1, 1-19.
Finkelstein, E.A., Haaland, B.A., Bilger, M., Sahasranaman, A., Sloan, R.A., Nang, E.E.K., & Evenson, K.R. (2016). Effectiveness of activity trackers with and without incentives to increase physical activity (TRIPPA): a randomized controlled trial. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol 2016, 1-13.
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Kreitzberg, D.S., Dailey, S.L., Vogt, T.M., Robinson, D., & Zhu, Y. (2016). What is your fitness tracker communicating?: Exploring messages and effects of wearable fitness devices. Qualitative Research Reports in Communication, 17:1, 93-101. Doi: 10.1080/17459435.2016.1220418
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