Fitness trackers are helping some seniors get up and go

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Lead researcher Rosenberg: Older adults are sitting too much.
Lead researcher Rosenberg: Older adults are sitting too much.

Reminders delivered via fitness tracker can help older people become more active, increase energy and improve mood, according to a study published in BMC Public Health.

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute and the University of California-San Diego gave 29 seniors Jawbone Up wristbands and provided six sessions of health coaching over 12 weeks.

Coined “I-STAND,” the program recorded sitting times at two points using a thigh-mounted activPAL device and included exit interviews with most participants.

“Effective behavioral interventions are needed to encourage less sitting among older adults, specifically those with obesity, but these programs must be acceptable to the target population,” wrote the researchers, led by Dori Rosenberg, Ph.D., MPH, an assistant investigator for Kaiser Permanente. I-STAND “was acceptable, easy to incorporate, and had a positive perceived health impact on older adults with obesity.”

Researchers said older adults with a body mass index over 30 kg/m2 spend 10 to 11 hours per day sitting. They targeted 60- to 89-year-olds.

The study also noted most participants were unaware how long they were sedentary, and that they needed strategies to break habits. In addition to 15-minute stand reminders from the fitness tracker, the seniors used timers, visual cues and habits such as phone calls to trigger stand times.