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JAMA: Fitbits actually work, if you want them to

The Times Wellness blog today reports on fitness tracking devices:

Each volunteer was fitted with a pedometer, two accelerometers, several wristband monitors and, in each pocket, a cellphone, one of which ran three iPhone-based fitness-tracking apps and the other of which featured an Android phone running one tracking app.

The volunteers then began walking on treadmills set to a gentle 3 miles-per-hour pace. A researcher stood nearby and manually counted every step each volunteer took until that volunteer had finished first 500 and then, separately, another 1,500 steps.

The upshot, said Dr. Mitesh S. Patel, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania who oversaw the study, is that smartphones could offer “an easy, less expensive, but still accurate” means for people to track their activity.

But my Fitbit is fun. Which brings up an important point buried in the blog post:

But the broader issue, as Dr. Patel and his colleagues pointed that no fitness tracker of any kind has yet proved able to motivate people disinclined to exercise to start moving.


I have two hours to get in another 4,500 steps to reach 20,000 today. And now that my Apfelstrudel is mostly digested, I'm motivated.

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