Beyond step counting: Can smart wearable devices promote healthy lifestyle and improve quality of life?

A wide variety of smart wearable devices  are available nowadays and they have become affordable, accessible and easy to use. Smart wearables such as smartwatches, fitness trackers, sport watches track individuals’ physical, mental and social well-being and may help to improve health outcomes. The question remains, however, can smart wearable devices be used as psychosocial interventions?

Digital therapeutics space is growing continuously and researchers are investigating the contribution of smart wearable devices in digital health solutions. Smart wearable devices collect the data of users’ personal health and exercise. Some of the data collected by smart wearables include steps taken, food and water intake, calories burned, sleep movement, breathing, heart rate and passive indicators of stress and anxiety. A recent single-blinded, three-parallel randomized controlled trial (RCT) demonstrated that “commercial smart wearable devices with full functions had benefits of promoting exercise, stress management, and self-actualization of a health-enhancing lifestyle.” The study showed that “The smart wearable devices with the more-complicated functions revealed positive effects on comprehensive QOL, physical QOL, and mental QOL compared to only using a mobile app.”

Participants were randomly divided into control group (members were required to download a mobile app, which had the smallest number of limited features, onto their smartphone. and two experimental groups (Members of the first experimental group were given an smart bracelet (SB) with less-complicated functions and members of the second experimental group were given the smartwatch (SW) with more-complicated functions). The outcomes evaluated included healthy lifestyle, quality of life and users experience.

The clinical trial reported two important results:

  1. The study found significant improvements in self-actualization and stress management with smart wearable devices (for both SB and SW groups) compared to only using a mobile app (control group). “However, there were no significant group, time, or interaction effects in either experimental group on health responsibility, interpersonal support, or nutrition domains of a healthy lifestyle, compared to the control group.”
  2. “The SW group revealed improvements in comprehensive QOL, physical QOL, and mental QOL. However, the other two domains, social QOL and environmental QOL, as well as self-reported health did not exhibit a significant group, time, or interaction effect in the SW group. There were no significant group, time, or interaction effects in the SB experimental group compared to the control group for any domains of QOL.”

Conclusion: Smart wearable devices have potential to promote healthy lifestyle and improve quality of life and they can be used as an effective psychosocial intervention to promote public health.

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