Objective, accelerometer-based tools that track physical activity have proliferated the marketplace. Estimates in U.S. populations indicate that one in six consumers (15%) use wearables to monitor health behaviors. In addition, 35% of employers utilize wearables and even more (44.5%) leverage them in strategic planning of wellness programs. Early studies evaluating these products have found that common wearables (e.g., Fitbit, Misfit, Jawbone) include many elements that support behavior change: prompts, feedback on performance, social support and goal setting. In a comprehensive review led by the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines Committee, researchers found evidence that wearable activity monitors including simple step counters, when paired with goal-setting, were effective at increasing physical activity. Additional evidence from a systematic review conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that, particularly when paired with coaching and counseling, technology tools can have a positive impact on health outcomes such as weight-loss maintenance. There is also evidence that wearables may help to alter sedentary behaviors. In a meta-analysis of several randomized controlled trials, use of a step counter paired with a step goal significantly reduced sedentary time among adults. However, wearables remains an emerging field and we have much more to learn about their efficacy for health promotion as some research demonstrate no effect on physical activity or weight-loss outcomes. Increasingly, wearables are not only tracking physical activity such as steps and active minutes but also metrics such as sleep, energy expenditure and heart rate. In addition, these devices often rely on integrative platforms that allow users to track their data over time and self-report other health-related behaviors such as dietary intake via a web browser or smartphone application. Given the amount and type of data collected through wearables, projects should consider and emphasize privacy and data security among users, particularly when they are vetting technologies to recommend to their occupants. In addition, projects should be transparent about the accuracy of commercial wearable devices and should reiterate that these are tools for motivation.
Provide Self-Monitoring Tools (1 point)
Wearables are made available to all eligible employees and meet the following requirements:
Are provided for personal use at no cost or are subsidized by at least 50%.
Aggregate data via the device’s central platform, allowing individuals to monitor their own metrics over time.
Measure at least two of the following physical activity metrics:
- Active minutes and/or intensity.
- Activity types.
- Floors climbed.
To earn an additional point for WELL Core and MFR Certification, projects should provide self-monitoring tools to tenants at no cost or subsidized by at least 50%.