Fitness trackers may increase productivity at work, according to a study

August 19, 2022

According to a recent study published in the journal IEEE Pervasive Computing, if you think your stressful commute may be hindering your productivity, you are probably right. It's also feasible that your fitness tracker could prove this.

About the Study

Researchers examined tracker data gathered over a one-year period from roughly 300 individuals. They compared variables like heart rate and activity levels to subsequent job performance while concentrating on their commute time as well as the 30-minute blocks before and after commutes. Those who demonstrated the most stress before, during, and after commuting tended to have significantly lower work performance compared to those with lower levels. They noted that this is consistent with earlier research on commuting, which suggests that stress and frustration from that time period can lead to poor organizational skills, a less efficient workforce, and counterproductive behaviors. Another finding is that maintaining a consistent routine with arrival and departure to work tended to lower stress levels and subsequently boost work performance.

Beyond Fitness

The most recent study is not the first to indicate that fitness trackers may be useful for purposes other than fitness, especially in light of their increased functionality since their initial iterations. In addition to calories and steps, trackers of today can also record information on sleep, body composition, and heart rate variability.According to Scripps Research Translational Institute researcher Jennifer Radin, PhD, monitoring heart rate over time may be particularly beneficial for maintaining good health. For instance, if your resting heart rate changes significantly, it's frequently in response to bodily inflammation, which may be an early symptom of an illness like the flu.

"In turn, [these changes] may affect sleep quality, which would also show up on a tracker," she says. "This can be used by individuals to detect infection, but it may also be useful for public health efforts in the future to see illness trends if data with identifying information taken out is made available."

In a research she co-authored that was published in The Lancet, it was suggested that data that had been gathered in batches could be helpful for strengthening healthcare resources in particular locations in order to stop the spread of the flu during outbreaks.

Just Get Moving

A fitness tracker will probably be helpful whether you're trying to increase work performance, improve sleep, or fight off the first signs of the flu. According to a study published in PLOS Medicine, even a simple tracker like a pedometer may be helpful because it frequently promotes exercise. Researchers analyzed data from 1,300 clinical trial participants who were divided into two groups. For three months, half of them kept track of their steps, while the other half did not. Ages of the participants ranged from 45 to 75, and most were overweight or obese but otherwise in good condition.

Those who used pedometers had at least 30 minutes more per week of moderate-intensity activity than the non-tracking group at a follow-up 4 years later. As a result, compared to the non-tracking control group, they had a 66% lower risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

"The main takeaway here is that it doesn’t take much to improve your health markers," says lead researcher Tess Harris, MD, a professor in the Population Health Research Institute at St. George’s University of London. "Fitness trackers or even simple pedometers can help motivate you by giving you realistic feedback on what you are doing through regular monitoring.”

She continues by saying that using data tends to help you form enduring habits that can result in significant behavior change, regardless of your purpose. That can be especially true if you have seen benefits from changing to better habits like coming and departing from work at the same time on a regular schedule, increasing steps throughout the day, or simply noticing your heart rate variability as you go about your day.

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