The activity trackers that you may have received as a holiday gift won't automatically make you active or healthy, new research indicates. However, trackers can have a significant impact if you establish clearly defined objectives, suggests a study from the OHSU School of Medicine.
When paired with activity goals - such as 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day or 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week – activity trackers can be powerful tools for increasing physical activity, say the researchers.
The study found that when people used such monitors without a specific goal in mind, their physical activity declined and their heart health did not improve. This lack-luster performance was despite 57 percent of participants thinking their activity had actually increased.
The researchers recommend meeting with a medical professional such as a primary care physician to establish goals catered to specific health needs.
The study followed more than 400 healthy adults, mostly office workers, over the course of six months, starting in the summer and ending in the winter. The study participants' steps were tracked every minute with an activity monitor worn on their wrists.
Like most activity monitors, the device used in the study had a three-way accelerometer - which measures motion up and down, side to side and front to back - and an optical sensor to count heartbeats.
To evaluate heart health, the researchers also assessed participants for a number of indicators of cardiac risk: body mass index, cholesterol, blood pressure and HbA1C, the three-month average of blood sugar.
Participants decreased their average steps per day over the six-month study. Their heart risk factors also remained largely unchanged.
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