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Front Public Health. 2017 Jan 11;4:289. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2016.00289. eCollection 2016.

Behavior Change with Fitness Technology in Sedentary Adults: A Review of the Evidence for Increasing Physical Activity.

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Psychology Department, Brandeis University , Waltham, MA , USA.


Physical activity is closely linked with health and well-being; however, many Americans do not engage in regular exercise. Older adults and those with low socioeconomic status are especially at risk for poor health, largely due to their sedentary lifestyles. Fitness technology, including trackers and smartphone applications (apps), has become increasingly popular for measuring and encouraging physical activity in recent years. However, many questions remain regarding the effectiveness of this technology for promoting behavior change. Behavior change techniques such as goal setting, feedback, rewards, and social factors are often included in fitness technology. However, it is not clear which components are most effective and which are actually being used by consumers. We discuss additional strategies not typically included in fitness technology devices or apps that are promising for engaging inactive, vulnerable populations. These include action planning, restructuring negative attitudes, enhancing environmental conditions, and identifying other barriers to regular physical activity. We consider which strategies are most conducive to motivating behavior change among sedentary adults. Overall, fitness technology has the potential to significantly impact public health, research, and policies. We suggest ways in which app developers and behavior change experts can collaborate to develop successful apps. Advances are still needed to help inactive individuals determine how, when, where, and with whom they can increase their physical activity.


behavior change; exercise; fitness trackers; older adults; physical activity; technology

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