The study aimed to investigate whether use of activity trackers, alone or in combination with cash incentives or charitable donations, lead to increases in physical activity and improvements in health outcomes.
Four groups of participants (21-65 ans) were constituted: 1. Control (no tracker or incentives), 2. Fitbit Zip activity tracker, 3. tracker plus charity incentives, or 4. tracker plus cash incentives.
The cash incentive was most effective at increasing physical activity (per week) at 6 months, but this effect was not sustained 6 months after the incentives were discontinued.
At 12 months, the activity tracker with or without charity incentives were effective at attenuating the reduction of physical activity seen in the control group.
It is noticeable however that the study did not identify evidence of improvements in health outcomes, either with or without incentives, calling into question the value of these devices for health promotion.
A conclusion is that although other incentive strategies might generate greater increases in step activity and improvements in health outcomes, incentives would probably need to be in place long term to avoid any potential decrease in physical activity resulting from discontinuation.
Finkelstein et al. (2016). Effectiveness of activity trackers with and without incentives to increase physical activity (TRIPPA): a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, Diabete & Endocrinology, 4(12), 983-995.