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If you have an activity tracker, you likely find yourself using the device daily. The smart watches can track everything from how many steps you walk in a day to your average heart rate during a workout. Beyond being a dependable measurement of your activity level, fitness trackers have another added bonus—they're motivational. According to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of South Australia, activity watches encourage users to walk up to 40 minutes—or 1,800 steps—more each day.
To obtain their findings, the researchers reviewed nearly 400 studies involving 164,00 people around the world who wear activity trackers to monitor their physical activity. The research, which was published in Lancet Digital Health, highlights the importance of affordable interventions that encourage people to exercise more regularly. "Wearable activity trackers promote behavior-change techniques, such as self-monitoring and goal setting, and their use has been associated with increased physical activity," the research states.
Despite their popularity, there has been widespread skepticism about how effective these types of watches really are, as well as their level of accuracy and whether they encourage unhealthy exercise patterns. But, according to study author Ty Ferguson, lead researcher at UniSA and PhD candidate, the evidence has, so far, been overwhelmingly positive.
"The overall results from the studies we reviewed show that wearable activity trackers are effective across all age groups and for long periods of time," Ferguson says. "They encourage people to exercise on a regular basis [and] to make it part of their routine."
In addition to encouraging people to move more throughout the day, the researchers state that there is also some evidence that fitness trackers also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes and other health conditions.