Research Study Abstract

Patterns of Fitbit Use and Activity Levels Throughout a Physical Activity Intervention: Exploratory Analysis from a Randomized Controlled Trial

  • Published on Feb 5, 2018

Background: There has been a rapid increase in the use of technology-based activity trackers to promote behavior change. However, little is known about how individuals use these trackers on a day-to-day basis or how tracker use relates to increasing physical activity.

Objective: The aims were to use minute level data collected from a Fitbit tracker throughout a physical activity intervention to examine patterns of Fitbit use and activity and their relationships with success in the intervention based on ActiGraph-measured moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA).

Methods: Participants included 42 female breast cancer survivors randomized to the physical activity intervention arm of a 12-week randomized controlled trial. The Fitbit One was worn daily throughout the 12-week intervention. ActiGraph GT3X+ accelerometer was worn for 7 days at baseline (prerandomization) and end of intervention (week 12). Self-reported frequency of looking at activity data on the Fitbit tracker and app or website was collected at week 12.

Results: Adherence to wearing the Fitbit was high and stable, with a mean of 88.13% of valid days over 12 weeks (SD 14.49%). Greater adherence to wearing the Fitbit was associated with greater increases in ActiGraph-measured MVPA (binteraction=0.35, P<.001). Participants averaged 182.6 minutes/week (SD 143.9) of MVPA on the Fitbit, with significant variation in MVPA over the 12 weeks (F=1.91, P=.04). The majority (68%, 27/40) of participants reported looking at their tracker or looking at the Fitbit app or website once a day or more. Changes in Actigraph-measured MVPA were associated with frequency of looking at one’s data on the tracker (b=−1.36, P=.07) but not significantly associated with frequency of looking at one’s data on the app or website (P=.36).

Conclusions: This is one of the first studies to explore the relationship between use of a commercially available activity tracker and success in a physical activity intervention. A deeper understanding of how individuals engage with technology-based trackers may enable us to more effectively use these types of trackers to promote behavior change.


  • Sheri J Hartman, PHD 1,2
  • Sandahl H Nelson, MS 1,2
  • Lauren S Weiner, BA 1,2


  • 1

    Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States

  • 2

    University of California San Diego Moores Cancer Center, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States


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