Fitness trackers: What’s the verdict on behavior change?

In order for fitness trackers to help shape our waistlines for the better, we’d have to make a few key assumptions about how and why they work.

Let’s review these key assumptions one by one to see if the the trackers are likely to increase our activity levels.

In a survey of 6223 Americans, researchers found that more than half of individuals who purchased a wearable device stop using it and, of these, one third did so before 6 months had passed.

A recent year-long study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, had the same issue: About 40% of research participants stopped using the tracker within the first six months, and by the end of the year a mere 10% of people were still wearing them. A big problem with fitness trackers is that it is difficult to get people to keep using them after the initial novelty has worn off.

Why is this? Behavioral science has shown in many domains, outside of health, that while having the facts is important, it is rarely enough to change our behavior. Behavioral scientists refers to this as the gap between action and intention.

Research about the gap between our intentions and actions suggests that just knowing you need 5000 more steps every day is not enough to get you to walk to work instead of taking the bus, or go for a 30 minute stroll after dinner instead of relaxing on the couch by the TV. To actually increase activity levels we would need to hack more deeply into our daily routines.

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Irrational Labs

Irrational Labs

Irrational Labs is a product design company that creates behavioral change for good.