Wearable activity trackers such as the Fitbit, have become popular devices for children and adults to monitor their steps and act as a motivating tool to help them be more active. Researchers have lately used activity trackers to help children and adolescents affected by cancer to increase their physical activity levels.
Our team performed a systematic review to explore how wearable activity trackers were used to measure and improve physical activity levels and other health outcomes. We recently published our findings in the Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology.
We also identified intervention features (e.g. health professional contact) that were common among studies that achieved improvements in physical activity or other health outcomes (e.g. fitness).
We conducted an electronic search across four databases and identified 3187 relevant articles. After screening all articles, we included 12 studies in our final analysis.
- 5/12 studies recruited childhood cancer patients during their cancer treatment
- 2/12 studies recruited children on maintenance therapy
- 5/12 studies recruited survivors of childhood cancer
- Two different types of activity trackers were used:
- Activity trackers used as a measuring tool that did not provide any information to the user (non-feedback)
- Activity trackers used as a self-monitoring tool that did provide information to the user (feedback) e.g. step counts
- Two studies that used non-feedback activity trackers reported increases in physical activity.
- Six studies (50%) found improvements in health outcomes such as decrease in negative mood, increased motivation, improved body coordination, increase in quality of life, and improvements in fitness.
- Intervention features included health professional support, peer or parental support, education, goal setting, distance delivery, and individualisation of programs, messages or information (i.e. tailored specifically to the participant). However, many studies were different in study design, study characteristics and populations. We could not conclude which intervention features might have contributed to increases in physical activity.
The findings from our review showed that physical activity interventions using wearable activity trackers are promising in health outcomes such as fitness for children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer. Our next step is to run a physical activity intervention, called ‘iBounce’ involving activity trackers and an online app to engage childhood cancer survivors to be more active.
To read the publication about this study click here.
If you would like to know more about iBounce, including how to get involved, please click here.