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date: 12 November 2019

Summary and Keywords

Commercially available wearable activity trackers are small, non-invasive electronic devices that are worn on the body for the purposes of monitoring a range of outcomes including steps, energy expenditure, and sleep. These devices utilize sensors to track movement, and these recorded data are provided to the user via a visual display on the device itself and/or by syncing the device with an accompanying app or web-based program. Combined together, these devices and accompanying apps incorporate a broad range of behavior change techniques that are known to change behavior, including self-monitoring, goal setting, and social support. In recent years, wearable activity trackers have become increasingly popular, and the growth in ownership within different populations has occurred at an exponential rate. This growth in appeal has led to researchers and practitioners examining the validity and reliability of wearable activity trackers for measuring a range of outcomes and integrating the results into physical activity promotion strategies. Acceptable validity has been reported for steps and moderate validity for measuring energy expenditure. However, little research has examined whether wearable activity trackers are a feasible and effective method for changing physical activity behaviors in the short- and longer-term, either alone or in combination with additional strategies. Some initial results are promising, though concerns have been raised over longer-term use and impacts on motivation for physical activity. There is a need for research examining the longer-term use of wearable activity trackers in different population groups, and establishing whether this technology has any positive effects on physical activity levels.

Keywords: physical activity, sedentary behavior, wearable technology, activity trackers, behavior change

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