Timely way to track fitness

Timely way to track fitness

Medical Research
STEP BY STEP - Fitness trackers can help get you moving.

STEP BY STEP - Fitness trackers can help get you moving.

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NOT long ago the idea of watches that talked to you and measured your heartbeat were the stuff of science fiction. Now it seems nearly everyone has a fitness tracking device strapped to their wrist.

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NOT long ago the idea of watches that talked to you and measured your heartbeat were the stuff of science fiction. Now it seems nearly everyone has a fitness tracking device strapped to their wrist.

These next-generation watches not only tell the time, but tell the wearer everything from how many steps they've taken to the number of calories they've burned in a day.

But are these wearable activity trackers the answer to helping us get fit? It seems the answer for older Australians is a healthy yes.

Researchers in Western Australia have found that fitness tracking devices, such as those made by manufacturers like Fitbit, are the ideal choice for older people looking to monitor their fitness on a daily basis.

The team at Curtin University found that, for seniors, the devices can help promote physical activity and reduce the risk of health issues.

Published in the Journal of BMC Geriatrics, the research examined the reliability and accuracy of two popular fitness trackers, Fitbit Flex and ChargeHR.

Thirty-one people, with an average age of 74.2, took part in the research, which involved a two-minute walk test in a lab and then being monitored for 14 days in their homes.

"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," said lead researcher Elissa Burton.

She said two-thirds of older Australians are not physically active and this lack of activity can potentially lead to health issues such as high blood pressure, increased risk of heart attacks, some types of cancer, type 2 diabetes and increased falls.

"Data from the study shows that both fitness devices displayed excellent reliability and good accuracy for the total distance covered and steps monitored by the participants, making them an ideal choice for older Australians looking to monitor their physical activity on a daily basis."

Dr Burton said while more research needs to be done, this was one of the first known research studies to utilise an older population in both a laboratory and free-living environment using the two devices.

"This study was unique as it allowed us to monitor participants in the comfort of their own home, which was critical to the study as many older adults are likely to revert back to usual habits and reduce their activity levels when they are in a comfortable environment," 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."

The research was also conducted by researchers from University of Melbourne and the University of Arkansas.

What are fitness trackers?

About two million Aussies don a fitness or activity tracker.

Usually worn on the wrist, it can track the distance you walk or run (and in some cases swim or cycle) in kilometres and also steps, as well as the number of calories you burn and take in. Some also monitor your heart rate and sleep quality.

Some also include a guided meditation function and will remind you to move throughout the day. Popular brands include Fitbit, Garmin, Apple and Samsung.

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