Surprising New Findings about Wearable Exercise Trackers & Teens / by Gia & Danielle

By Dr. Gia Marson

Photo by  Tikkho Maciel  on  Unsplash

Photo by Tikkho Maciel on Unsplash

If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health -- Hippocrates

Exercise has wide ranging mental and physical benefits across all age groups. This is common knowledge. We can all easily recognize that our bodies are naturally meant to move. So it makes sense there is concern when children and teenagers aren’t getting enough exercise. But what is the answer to facilitating positive change? Exercise classes? Sports team participation? Training apps by Nike or other athlete friendly companies? Family activities? How about wearable lifestyle technologies? You might think this is the perfect solution. Kids love technology. They can set and share their goals with friends. They can even track measurable progress.

A new study in the American Journal of Health Education looked at the impact of a popular wearable lifestyle technology on teen exercise habits. At first, the 13 and 14 year olds reported being more motivated -- by guilt and competition to meet the fitness goals. But the positive trend in their desire to improve exercise habits did not last. The study revealed, it’s not that simple. After monitoring this group of 84 female and male adolescents for 8 weeks, researchers found a significant decrease in satisfaction and significant increase in amotivation.

You might find these results surprising and even disheartening,. But don’t give up. If your teen would benefit from more exercise, identify her or his own motivation, scheduling options and unique interests. A wearable exercise tracker, class, family activity or an app may have lasting positive impact...or it may be that taking your dog for long walks will outlast the class fads and newest technology. As with most other targeted health behaviors, this study highlights there is no one size fits all solution.  Instead, we have to be curious, think flexibly and experiment to find movement that is fun, rewarding, satisfying and sustainable!

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Kerner, C & Goodyear V., (2017). The Motivational Impact of Wearable Healthy Lifestyle Technologies: A Self-determination Perspective on Fitbits With Adolescents, American Journal of Health Education; doi.org/10.1080/19325037.2017.1343161.