Older adults' experiences using a commercially available monitor to self-track their physical activity

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Background: Physical activity contributes to older adults' autonomy, mobility, and quality of life as they age, yet fewer than 1 in 5 engage in activities as recommended. Many older adults track their exercise using pencil and paper, or their memory. Commercially available physical activity monitors (PAM) have the potential to facilitate these tracking practices and, in turn, physical activity. An assessment of older adults' long-term experiences with PAM is needed to understand this potential. Objective: To assess short and long-term experiences of adults >70 years old using a PAM (Fitbit One) in terms of acceptance, ease-of-use, and usefulness: domains in the technology acceptance model. Methods: This prospective study included 95 community-dwelling older adults, all of whom received a PAM as part of randomized controlled trial piloting a fall-reducing physical activity promotion intervention. Ten-item surveys were administered 10 weeks and 8 months after the study started. Survey ratings are described and analyzed over time, and compared by sex, education, and age. Results: Participants were mostly women (71/95, 75%), 70 to 96 years old, and had some college education (68/95, 72%). Most participants (86/95, 91%) agreed or strongly agreed that the PAM was easy to use, useful, and acceptable both 10 weeks and 8 months after enrolling in the study. Ratings dropped between these time points in all survey domains: ease-of-use (median difference 0.66 points, P=.001); usefulness (median difference 0.16 points, P=.193); and acceptance (median difference 0.17 points, P=.032). Differences in ratings by sex or educational attainment were not statistically significant at either time point. Most participants 80+ years of age (28/37, 76%) agreed or strongly agreed with survey items at long-term follow-up, however their ratings were significantly lower than participants in younger age groups at both time points. Conclusions: Study results indicate it is feasible for older adults (70-90+ years of age) to use PAMs when self-tracking their physical activity, and provide a basis for developing recommendations to integrate PAMs into promotional efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere35
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, under the National Institutes of Health Award Number UL1TR000114, and a UMN Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry, and Scholarship award. The content of this study is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. We would like the thank participants for their involvement in this study and the UMN Clinical and Translational Science Institute for recruitment support.

Publisher Copyright:
© Siobhan K McMahon, Beth Lewis, Michael Oakes, Weihua Guan, Jean F Wyman, Alexander J Rothman.


  • Aged
  • Ambulatory
  • Mobile Health
  • Monitoring
  • Motivation
  • Physical Activity
  • Self-Appraisal
  • Wearables


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