A national evaluation of activity tracker initial activation, sustained use, and physical activity outcomes


More than 85 percent of large employers in the United States offer wellness programs that utilize behavior change strategies such as financial incentives and gamification. Increasingly, these programs are using wearable devices and smartphones to remotely monitor and engage individuals in health promotion. However, there has been little evaluation of the initial activation and sustained use of these devices.


We partnered with Humana to evaluate a wellness program offered to 4.5 million individuals across the country from 2014 to 2015. We compared initial device activation, sustained device use, and physical activity outcomes across sociodemographic characteristics.


Among 4.5 million individuals, 1.2 percent activated a device by connecting it to the wellness program to transmit step data. Activation rates varied significantly by age and income - adults who were elderly or had lower income levels activated devices at much lower rates. At six months, 80 percent of those who activated a device were still using it, and physical activity levels were higher than the national average. This study was one of the first national evaluations of activity tracker use. It demonstrated that outcomes varied based on sociodemographic characteristics.