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Is wearable technology an activity motivator, or a fad that wears thin?

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Activity monitors may be useful for encouraging healthier lifestyles in people of all ages

In this issue of the MJA, Ewald and his co-authors report on the association between increases in daily step counts and the reduced need for hospital care among older Australians.1 Their findings confirm something international experts widely acknowledge: increasing population levels of physical activity is critical for reducing the global burden of diseases such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancers.2 With fewer than 50% of Australian adults meeting current physical activity guidelines of at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week,3 the biggest challenge faced by clinical and public health practitioners is how to increase activity levels in our largely sedentary population.

Wearable technology (eg, activity monitors such as Fitbit, Garmin, iWatch etc.) may provide the motivation needed to increase physical activity, especially among those at risk of hospitalisation. Twenty per cent of the Australian adult population (10% of those aged 65 or more) own some form of wearable technology.4 The popularity, mass market appeal, pervasiveness, and widespread availability of wearable devices, combined with their decreasing cost, provide significant opportunities…