Commentary: We’re buying more fitness trackers but exercising less

In addition, fewer adults and children are walking or bicycling to school or work than 25 years ago. For instance, in the late 1960s, most US children ages 5 to 14 rode a bicycle or walked to school. Since then, this “active transportation” has largely been replaced by automobile trips. Rates of travel by school bus or public transportation have seen little change.


So if levels of physical activity have dropped at the same time that the popularity of fitness tracking has grown, what makes these gadgets useful?

Fitness trackers can help to increase people’s awareness of their daily physical activity. However, these devices are only part of the solution to addressing the problem of sedentary lifestyles. They are facilitators, rather than drivers, of behavior change.

When a person’s physical activity goes down, it opens the door to overall reduced fitness levels and other health problems such as obesity or diabetes. On the other hand, physical activity has a dramatic positive impact on health and well-being.

The first step to increasing active movement is to measure it, which these devices can do. But successfully increasing one’s overall physical activity requires several additional factors such as goal-setting, self-monitoring, positive feedback and social support.

Scott A Conger is an Associate Professor of Exercise Physiology at Boise State University, David Bassett is a Professor and the Department Head of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport Studies at the University of Tennessee, and Lindsay Toth is an Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Tennessee. North Florida. This commentary first appeared in The Conversation.

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