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Promoting Physical Activity Using Wearable Activity Trackers and eHealth Applications

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

Results from: “The Effectiveness of an 8-week Physical Activity Intervention Involving Wearable Activity Trackers and an eHealth application: a Mixed Methods Study”

McCormack GR, Petersen JA, Ghoneim D, Blackstaffe A, Naish C, Doyle-Baker PK


Wearable Activity Trackers

Physical activity interventions can be helpful for initiation and participation of individuals in regular physical activity routines (1). Wearable activity trackers (WTs) offer benefits for the user such as quantifying movement, behaviour feedback and data analytics (2-5). The WTs may be paired with eHealth applications which provide additional information on behaviour patterns, biometrics and geographical location or global positioning (5, 6). The WTs and eHealth applications can positively impact physical activity behaviours (7-11), and reduce sedentary time (11). They may also be helpful in creating goals, and for social comparison through behaviour challenges. Additionally, health promotion messages are often provided through the WTs and eHealth applications, which promote individual movement and physical activity (7-10, 12-15).

The Vivo Play Scientist Program

The Vivo Play Scientist (VPS) program operates in North Central Calgary, Alberta, through the Vivo for Healthier Generations recreation centre. It provides physical activity opportunities and play programming to surrounding neighbourhoods. The VPS program was designed to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour, through the provision of the Garmin Vivofit4 wearable tracker and access to the Garmin Connect platform and Vivo’s customised eHealth dashboard. The VPS program took place during COVID-19 health restrictions.

Evaluation of the VPS program

A recent study evaluated the effectiveness of the VPS program in modifying physical activity and sedentary behaviour in the initial 8-weeks of implementation. The participants were all over 18 years of age and were residents of North Central Calgary neighbourhoods. Multiple household members could participate in the VPS program, but only one adult participated in the evaluation. Two online questionnaires were completed by 87 participants, which captured sociodemographic characteristics, perceptions and use of wearable technology and eHealth applications, physical activity cognition and self-reported physical activity and behaviour. Semi-structured telephone interviews were also completed with 23 participants, in which the interviewer asked participants several questions regarding their experiences in the VPS program. These included use of the Vivofit4, Garmin Connect and eHealth dashboard, impacts on physical activity and health, and recommendations for improvement.

The quantitative findings of the study concluded that participants on average increased walking time by 73 min/week and decreased sitting time by 67 min/day. The qualitative findings of the study were grouped into three key themes, increased physical activity, reduced sedentary behaviour and other health benefits.

Increased physical activity

The WT and dashboard increased the awareness of the physical activity level of the participants, which motivated many of the participants to exercise. For households that participated together, the program supported increases in physical activity through being active as a family.

Reduced Sedentary Behaviour

The WTs also increased the awareness surrounding participants' sedentary behaviour, with the notifications that reminded participants to move, encouraging them to break up periods of sedentary behaviour.

Other Health benefits

Many participants noticed improvements in their mental, physical, and social health as physical activity contributed to mental wellbeing, stress level and sleep quality. Participants also noticed weight reductions and increased family interactions within participating households, as well as opportunities to educate children on physical activity, fitness, and health importance.

The VPS program displayed that the use of WTs and eHealth applications can be beneficial in increasing physical activity while lowering sedentary time and may influence personal physical and mental wellbeing. In addition, it provided opportunity for recreational programming during a pandemic as it positively influenced physical activity during COVID-19 restrictions.

Suggested Citation: McCormack GR, Petersen J, Ghoneim D, Blackstaffe A, Naish C, Doyle-Baker PK. Effectiveness of an 8-Week Physical Activity Intervention Involving Wearable Activity Trackers and an eHealth App: Mixed Methods Study. JMIR Formative Research. 2022 May 3;6(5):e37348.

Posted December 14, 2022

Writing and Infographic by Hallie Horvath & Calli Naish, BAS



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