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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author’s final published version in JMIR mHealth and uHealth, Volume 6, Issue 11, November 2018, Article number e10523.

The published version is available at Copyright © Phan et al.


BACKGROUND: Fitness trackers can engage users through automated self-monitoring of physical activity. Studies evaluating the utility of fitness trackers are limited among adolescents, who are often difficult to engage in weight management treatment and are heavy technology users.

OBJECTIVE: We conducted a pilot randomized trial to describe the impact of providing adolescents and caregivers with fitness trackers as an adjunct to treatment in a tertiary care weight management clinic on adolescent fitness tracker satisfaction, fitness tracker utilization patterns, and physical activity levels.

METHODS: Adolescents were randomized to 1 of 2 groups (adolescent or dyad) at their initial weight management clinic visit. Adolescents received a fitness tracker and counseling around activity data in addition to standard treatment. A caregiver of adolescents in the dyad group also received a fitness tracker. Satisfaction with the fitness tracker, fitness tracker utilization patterns, and physical activity patterns were evaluated over 3 months.

RESULTS: A total of 88 adolescents were enrolled, with 69% (61/88) being female, 36% (32/88) black, 23% (20/88) Hispanic, and 63% (55/88) with severe obesity. Most adolescents reported that the fitness tracker was helping them meet their healthy lifestyle goals (69%) and be more motivated to achieve a healthy weight (66%). Despite this, 68% discontinued use of the fitness tracker by the end of the study. There were no significant differences between the adolescent and the dyad group in outcomes, but adolescents in the dyad group were 12.2 times more likely to discontinue using their fitness tracker if their caregiver also discontinued use of their fitness tracker (95% CI 2.4-61.6). Compared with adolescents who discontinued use of the fitness tracker during the study, adolescents who continued to use the fitness tracker recorded a higher number of daily steps in months 2 and 3 of the study (mean 5760 vs 4148 in month 2, P=.005, and mean 5942 vs 3487 in month 3, P=.002).

CONCLUSIONS: Despite high levels of satisfaction with the fitness trackers, fitness tracker discontinuation rates were high, especially among adolescents whose caregivers also discontinued use of their fitness tracker. More studies are needed to determine how to sustain the use of fitness trackers among adolescents with obesity and engage caregivers in adolescent weight management interventions.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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