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Do people who wear fitness trackers really walk more?


Studies show an increase in physical activity among people who wear fitness trackers.
Studies show an increase in physical activity among people who wear fitness trackers.
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Whether you walk on a treadmill after work or make a point of power walking around a track on the weekends, putting one foot in front of the other is good for you. It reduces your risk of developing — and, in some cases, will help control — high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cholesterol, osteoporosis, arthritis, obesity, depression and more [source: Kravitz].

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, brisk walking falls into the "moderate aerobic exercise" category, which is something adults should do for at least 150 minutes a week [source: Laskowski]. With all the benefits of walking — and a surge in fitness trackers entering the personal health marketplace — questions remain: How much do you typically walk each day? And will a fitness tracker prompt you to walk more?

Let's hope so. In one survey of American adults, respondents said they took an average of 5,117 steps each day, about half the recommended 10,000 daily steps, and far fewer than the number racked up by people in Australia, Japan and Switzerland [source: Bassett et al.].

What's more, a surprising number of people aren't able to accurately estimate how much time they spend walking daily. A poll conducted for the World Heart Federation garnered responses from 7,367 adults in Brazil, China, India, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. More than one-third of the respondents in the U.K. and U.S. didn't know how much they walked every day. The numbers were slightly more encouraging for respondents in Brazil and India, but overall, a little less than half of those who tracked their bipedal efforts walked more than 30 minutes a day [source: World Health Federation].

Increasing your awareness about how much you're walking could make a difference, especially when the data comes right to your smartphone. Fitness trackers range from high-tech fitness bands to smart shirts that log activity and then sync the data via Bluetooth to corresponding apps. Most have a default daily 10,000-step goal, something that anecdotally has been known to prompt even the least obsessive among us to add extra steps. In addition, most apps can share your results with your circle of friends and beyond through social media, which can help even moderately competitive people strive to meet their goals.

Researchers who examined 26 studies with more than 2,700 total participants discovered that wearing a fitness tracker, even if it was a low-tech pedometer, resulted in significant increases in physical activity. Those who wore fitness trackers had a nearly 30 percent jump in physical activity, which translated into an additional 2,283 steps each day. Having an ever-present goal, such as 10,000 steps, and wearing a device to remind you of that goal were important indicators of whether people would move more throughout the day. So does that fitness tracker work? Yes, as long as you wear it [source: Bravata].


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