The effect of an activity tracker intervention on physical activity behavior among retirees

Retirement transition may be an optimal time window for lifestyle changes, including physical activity. We conducted a physical activity intervention aiming to increase physical activity and decrease sedentary time using a commercial activity tracker among recent retirees (Enhancing physical activity and healthy aging among recent retirees (REACT), NCT03320746). Overall, 231 former public sector workers were randomized into intervention and control groups. The intervention group participants were requested to use a wrist-worn Polar Loop 2 activity tracker (Polar, Kempele, Finland) every day and night for 12 months. The activity tracker included two main features: daily goal for physical activity and inactivity alerts for 55-minutes-long non-movement periods. Control group received no intervention. Physical activity behavior was measured at baseline, and at 3-, 6- and 12-month time points with a wrist-worn ActiGraph.

Results showed a tendency for increased total and light physical activity and concomitant decrease in sedentary time during the first 6 months among the intervention group, but the change was not statistically different from that of non-user controls (Leskinen et al. 2021), except among participants with obesity (Tuominen et al. 2021). Some indication of greater decrease in especially prolonged sedentary time over the first 6 months was observed in the intervention group vs. the control group (Suorsa et al. 2021). However, all the changes were only short-term as the levels returned close to the baseline levels in both groups at 12 months.

In conclusion, the one-year use of commercial activity tracker did not change physical activity behavior among recent retirees. However, beneficial short-term effect was observed in prolonged sedentary time and in light physical activity, particularly among participants with obesity.

The original publications:

Leskinen T, Suorsa K, Tuominen M, Pulakka A, Pentti J, Löyttyniemi E, Heinonen I, Vahtera J, Stenholm S. The Effect of Consumer-based Activity Tracker Intervention on Physical Activity among Recent Retirees-An RCT Study. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2021

Suorsa K, Leskinen T, Pulakka A, Pentti J, Löyttyniemi E, Heinonen I, Vahtera J, Stenholm S. The effect of a consumer-based activity tracker intervention on accelerometer-measured sedentary time among retirees: a randomized controlled REACT trial. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2021 

Tuominen M., Suorsa K., Pentti J., Koski P., Stenholm S., Leskinen T. The impact of a 12-month activity tracker intervention on activity behavior across body mass index subgroups among recent retirees: Post-hoc analysis of a randomized controlled trial. J Phys Act Health 2021