Do Physical Activity Monitors Actually Motivate People to Exercise?

sph | June 18, 2015

Lately, it may seem impossible to visit the gym without spotting someone sporting a Fitbit, Garmin watch or some sort of exercise tracking device. As the newest exercise accessories help make logging workouts a breeze, Health Talk spoke with Bill Roberts, from the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, and Jean Abraham, from the School of Public Health, to determine which workout devices and incentives motivate people to get off the couch and on their feet.

Photo Credit: BTNHD Production, CC,
Photo Credit: BTNHD Production, CC,

“On a circumstantial basis, there are many stories showing great success for people, but effects can vary among individuals,” said Roberts. “These devices are not going to have the same outcomes for every person. Ultimately, a person’s level of motivation determines their results.”

Specific workout trackers can monitor heart rate, steps, calories consumed and burned, and even sleeping patterns. These devices can appeal to people striving to keep their activity consistent and avoid holes in workout patterns. However, it is important to understand that even the most advanced devices may not be suited for everyone’s lifestyle or workout goals.

“When determining which device works best for a person, they should consider prices, the type of data they want to track, and what they want to gain by using the device,” said Roberts. “There are also devices available for simpler tracking such as pedometers, that can be used to motivate people to reach their recommended 10,000 steps per day. Smartphone apps can also be used to enter workouts and to manually track activities. GPS-based exercise apps can map walks or runs, measuring distance and calories burned.”

Workout incentives are not limited to technology devices as other tactics can help promote regular exercise. Finding a workout partner to help get you outside for a walk or run, or determining rewards can be successful alternatives.

“Many health promotion or wellness programs use financial incentives to promote healthy behaviors, such as engaging in regular exercise,” said Abraham. “Some research evidence suggests that providing monetary rewards for regular attendance can increase fitness center utilization.”

The key is to get moving – whatever the motivation may be.

“Exercise is good, cheap medicine that can reap many health benefits when done in moderation,” said Roberts. “A truly motivated person will find an incentive to make exercise work and I am for anything that gets people moving.”

~ Post written by Katie Huggins and originally published on Health Talk

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