- According to a new study published in JAMA Network Open, people who used their smartphones to track their activity—rather than a wearable device—were more likely to stick to tracking.
- If you don’t want to buy a fitness device just yet, your smartphone is an extremely viable and accurate option for holding you accountable to your running and fitness goals.
In the age of technology, there’s a good chance that you—and most people you know—keep track of runs, other workouts, and daily steps using one device or another. But you don’t have to buy a high-end watch or other wearable to successfully keep an eye on your progress. It turns out that the accessory that might keep you the most accountable is the one likely already attached to you 24/7: Your smartphone.
New research, published in JAMA Network Open, found that people using their smartphones to track their activity were more likely to continue doing so for a longer period of time than people using wearable devices.
The study followed 500 participants—250 tracking their activity using smartphones and 250 using wearable devices—who had been admitted to two different Philadelphia hospitals over a period of two years; each person was monitored for six months after their initial discharge. Those who tracked their activity using their smartphones were 32 percent more likely to send in their daily step counts in the six months after being discharged from the hospital than those who used a wearable fitness tracker.
“We think that most people already carry their smartphones with them and this habit may make it easier to use them to track their activity,” Mitesh S. Patel, M.D., lead study author and director of the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit, told Runner’s World.
If you’re unfamiliar with wearable fitness trackers, you might not want to go out of your way to research and buy one. But nearly 80 percent of adults in the U.S. already own smartphones, Patel adds, so they’re a good tool to track activity levels for extended periods of time. And once you’ve made a smartphone a part of your life, chances are, you’ll continue to upgrade it.
That’s not to say a wearable tracker might not be a good choice sometime down the road, but, according to Patel, “[people] could start with using their smartphones and then decide if other information from wearables—such as sleep or heart rate—are needed.”
A 2015 study in JAMA found that both types of devices were equally as accurate in counting steps. (It’s worth noting, though, that wearables track metrics such as sleep and heart rate, and smartphones typically don’t, according to Patel, who was also involved in this research.)
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The bottom line? If you don’t want to buy a wearable fitness tracker just yet, your smartphone is an extremely viable and accurate option for holding you accountable to your running and fitness goals.