medwireNews: Wearable activity trackers (WATs) are associated with a significant increase in the number of steps taken by individuals with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs), according to the findings of a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Individuals using WATs took a mean of 1520 more steps each day than those without WATs, showed data collated from seven studies including 463 people with RMDs.
And individuals using WATs increased their average daily step count from 4741 to 6019 over an average of 13.9 weeks – a mean increase from baseline of 1448 steps – leading Thomas Davergne (Hôpital Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris, France) and co-researchers to conclude that “[i]nterventions using wearable activity trackers were effective to increase physical activity levels.”
Further analysis of physical activity (based on three studies with 117 individuals) found that those with a WAT engaged in an extra 16 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day. Although the low number of participants makes these results difficult to interpret, “16 minutes may be considered clinically relevant when time in moderate to vigorous physical activity is around 10 minutes per day in lower limb osteoarthritis,” write the investigators in Arthritis Care & Research.
“An issue with WATs is medium term adherence,” note the researchers, with a previous survey showing that more than half of those who buy an activity tracker stop using it, and of these patients, a third give the tracker up within 6 months. But the current analysis found high adherence to the trackers among individuals with RMDs, with a weighted mean retention rate of 90% over a weighted mean duration of 24.3 weeks, a finding Davergne and team describe as “encouraging.”
Although these increases in physical activity might be expected to lead to improved symptoms, with most guidelines on RMDs encouraging such activity, the study found no effect of WATs on pain, function, disability, quality of life, or fatigue.
“It is possible that the moderate increase in physical activity was not sufficient to lead to clinical benefits,” the study authors comment.
In fact, a small but statistically significant increase in pain was identified when WATs were used for more than 8 weeks. This finding should be further confirmed, say the researchers, and “should not discourage activity given the potential [benefits] of physical activity.”
Although these results suggest that “WATs appear to be a promising strategy to improve physical activity for patients with RMDs,” the investigators say that “research may be needed to determine whether changes are maintained over time, ways to improve long-term use, and the most effective adjuncts.”
By Catherine Booth
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