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Fitness trackers? They can help you live longer if used regularly

October 2019

Can 150 minutes of physical activity a week increase your life expectancy? It can according to a study which has shown that regular use of fitness trackers can help make sure we’re consistent with our workouts. Meanwhile, experts recommend introducing more and more aspects of gamification to give people incentives to use them in the long term.

WHO: 150 minutes a week

This is the recommendation from the World Health Organisation which published the document “WHO Physical Activity Strategies 2016-2020”: adults and over 65s are advised to exercise for almost three hours a week to stay healthy. The WHO recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or, alternatively, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, while also advising to gradually increase the pace and time of your training. While children and young people are recommended an hour a day of moderate to intense physical activity. Fitness trackers can play a significant role in achieving these targets: not just because they offer objective data on our performances, but also because they encourage us to be consistent and not to lower the average minutes we spend playing sport. 


Long live the fitness tracker

A study has recently proven that 150 minutes of exercise can extend your life based on the use of a fitness tracker. The study was conducted by Dr Timothy Church (from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge) and involved almost 4000 middle-aged men and women who were made to wear a fitness tracker for one week to obtain accurate data on their physical activity. For the next ten years, researchers monitored the conditions of the subjects involved to discover if physical activity actually had an impact on their quality of life: the results proved that the most active people were 35% less likely to die prematurely, according to the data provided by the fitness trackers. Researchers therefore recommend using a fitness tracker to continually monitor any improvements.


Keeping fit? Use incentives with video games

Regularly using a fitness tracker helps control your physical activity. Especially if certain elements of gameplay are added to this monitoring. This piece of advice again comes from Dr Church who exclaims: “Look at Pokémon Go! That could be the future of activity trackers”. This augmented reality app, which experienced a boom in recent months, rewards players who move more and, according to estimates suggested by Microsoft Research with the University of Stanford, if the game “was able to sustain the engagement of its current user base” it could extend the life of American users by about 2,825 million years in total, about 41 days per user. Just think that in the 30 days following the launch of Pokémon Go there was an increase in physical activity equal to 144 billion steps in the United States.



Be more active with Pokémon Go

The study examined 32,000 people in the United States wearing a Microsoft Band for a period of three months. By analysing search queries, researchers were able to deduce with “great certainty” that 1,420 of them were Pokémon Go users, identifying a correlation with the increase in their physical activity. The data from this study is marginal, but a researcher at the University of Stanford, Tim Althoff, sees an important opportunity for public health in this type of approach: “I think the big question is whether these games can sustain long-term engagement (...) These games could make a really valuable contribution to public health”.