Researchers have found fitness tracking devices worn by older people could help promote physical activity and reduce the risk of health issues in older generations.

The research, published in the Journal of BMC Geriatrics, examined the reliability and accuracy of two popular fitness trackers, Fitbit Flex and ChargeHR, and found they were suitable for use by older adults.

The researchers monitored a group of 31 participants in a laboratory setting using a two-minute-walk test, and then over a 14-day-period in their home environment. The average age of the participants involved in this study was 74.2 years old.

Lead researcher Dr Elissa Burton, from the School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science at Curtin University, said the research offered new information about the effectiveness of fitness tracking devices and how they can be used by the older population to promote physical activity.

“Fitness trackers have always been popular with younger generations and we were interested to see if these devices were accurate when used by older people because they often move and walk differently to younger people,” Dr Burton said.

“The research not only shows that the fitness tracking devices are an ideal choice for older generations looking to monitor their day-to-day activity, but could also potentially contribute to reducing the risk of common health issues through improved cardio-vascular fitness.”

Chief executive of ExerciseNZ, Richard Beddie agrees fitness technology can be useful, but points out that the research appears to focus on the accuracy of the fitness trackers, rather than whether or not they led to increased activity.

“Being accurate in one’s activity levels is useful, but by itself doesn’t do anything to improve the activity levels of individuals,” he says.

“Good technology can actually be really beneficial in getting people of all demographics more active, but seldom is the technology itself enough – the best tech works interacting with humans, not replacing them.”

The research paper, Reliability and validity of two fitness tracker devices in the laboratory and home environment for older community-dwelling people, can be found online here.

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