Recently, FitBit announced a partnership with Health Promotion Board on a project to help improve the health of the population.
To summarize what this project is about, Singaporeans can sign up for FitBit's Premium service at $10 a month ($120 a year) in exchange for a free FitBit Inspire tracker.
The premium service includes workout videos and audio coaching, amongst other things.
The purpose of this is to collect behavioral data from users (optional of course). And said data will be used to
"...provide insights and contribute to more effective and targeted health intervention and promotional programmes that will benefit Singaporeans." (CNA, 2019)
Now since 2007, FitBit has been a popular household name when it comes to fitness wearables. It was the first of its kind and immediately went viral.
More than a decade later, several studies have been done on the FitBit's effectiveness with varying results.
According to this study, which reviewed 67 studies done on the accuracy of FitBit, it found that FitBit's step count accuracy was acceptable about 50% of the time.
That's a coin toss, really. But generally is pretty accurate.
More specifically, it tend to underestimate step count in controlled tests, and overestimate step count in free living situations.
One study also found that the greater the walking speed, the less effective the device was at measuring distance. But this can be overcome if you specify a stride distance and not use the device's default settings.
When it comes to counting calories burnt, the results are more shaky. It tend to underestimate calories burnt in certain activities like cycling, doing laundry, raking, and running on the treadmill, and overestimated calories burnt for carrying groceries (don't ask me why).
Overall, however, there were no significant different from the results obtained from a metabolic analyzer, Oxycon Mobile.
But it's not just whether the FitBit is accurate or not. I'm pretty sure that as the technology improves, it will become more accurate.
What's most important is if it is actually effective in getting people to start healthy habits and keep them. That's the whole point of it. To be that little angel on the shoulder reminding you that you didn't hit your 10,000 step count today.
So how the FitBit works is that you have to regularly engage with the website and self-monitor your progress.
Changing Positive Habits
In a preliminary study done, this proved to help increase physical activity for participants who self-monitored and tracked their own progress.
However, for the participants who received regular text reminders, the results show that they disengaged from the study more frequently (possibly due to annoyance).
The bias is that participants who would self-monitor and track would already be engaged with regular moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and so whether there's a positive change in habit is arguable.
Still, the study is preliminary and results were not statistically significant.
Another longitudinal study had slightly more hilarious results. Left to their own devices, 32% reported technical difficulty using their FitBits and 28% of participants lost their FitBits.
What Really Works
A recent study suggested that some features may help with motivation more than others. The study found that what's important to starting and maintain a healthy habit is:
- Reasonable goal setting.
- Specific reminders and accountability
- And a positive reward system
And if you think about it that is oddly similar to what we as personal trainers offer as a service. You can say that while FitBit markets itself as a wearable technology company, they are really trying to automate personal training.
I have hope that this will develop into something more positive in the future. As an add-on to helping Singaporeans start and stick to a healthy habit. It's a good thing that HPB is working with FitBit to do that.
However, we have to wait and see about that. Give it 5 years and see if Singaporean indeed does become a more healthy society as a whole. It'll be interesting to see what comes out of it.
Until then, we like to do it the ol' fashioned way (also with a little bit of technology help). As the study above mentioned, goal setting, accountability, and a reward system is the key to starting and sticking to a healthy habit.
Personal trainers do more than just stand around and watch you perform your exercise. At least PTs who are any good. If you've been trying to work out on your own and can't find the motivation to follow through, and you want some help and guidance... at least until you get the momentum to fly on your own...
Come down and meet us for a free goal-setting and fitness assessment consultation session. We'll share a personalized workout and nutrition plan catered to your goals and lifestyle.
And did I mention it's all for free? Click here to book a slot today.