The makers of wearable health and fitness trackers claim that the devices encourage us to be more aware of our own health and help change our behavior. But do they? Do wearables really make us healthier?
These devices are certainly reshaping how we approach dieting, fitness and health. It seems everyone is getting on wearable health device train.
The global market for wearable health and fitness trackers is expected to climb to an estimated 170 million devices by 2017, reported Verizon Wireless News Center (Verizon).
Apple recently unveiled its new fitness tracker, the Apple Watch. Apple claims that the device will help us all stay fit throughout the day, wrote Vox.com.
These types of wearable devices allow people to track and monitor sleep patterns, fitness levels, steps taken, calorie intake and other biological functions. Others encourage people to be more involved in improving their overall health by providing challenges and goals.
But here’s the rub — having access to better data does not guarantee that the user will change his or her behavior. According to Vox.com, the evidence on existing wearables health devices suggests that we haven't yet figured out how to make behavior changes stick.
While better data is supposed to be empowering and is expected to spark healthy changes, recent research has shown that a large percentage of wearable device users discontinue their use after six months, wrote WellandGood.com.
Natasha Dow Schüll, an MIT anthropologist who studied the science of self-tracking and behavior change for her book "Keeping Track," has seen reports saying that their use is even shorter.
She told Vox.com, "Even with the automated devices that just track you, usually you still have to do something to keep using it — making sure to wear the thing, recharging it — and reports have shown there's a drop-off in use after about two months."
Some studies have shown that fitness and health trackers encourage people to exercise more, but the evidence on how they sustain it is lacking, said Verizon.