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Effectiveness of physical activity monitors in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis

Source: The BMJ 26.01.22



Physical inactivity, an activity level insufficient to meet current recommendations, has a large impact on global public health, as it is one of the major risk factors for non-communicable diseases and is estimated to be responsible for 9% of all premature deaths globally. Physical activity, any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure, has been quantified with physical activity monitors (PAMs) for research purposes for decades. However, as well as tracking and measuring physical activity, modern PAMs hold the potential to be used as facilitators for behavioural change, providing direct feedback on physical activity to the user. A novel systematic review by Bravata and colleagues in 2007 reported that PAMs could be effectively used to increase physical activity levels among adults. However, the number of randomised controlled trials included was low, and the effect estimate was affected by imprecision. Furthermore, several randomised controlled trials have been published since 2007 with different conclusions about the effectiveness of the PAMs. Some trials have reported promising effect sizes some have reported inconclusive results owing to a lack of power or intervention effects, and some have reported negative findings on intervention effects. Even though several systematic reviews have investigated the effectiveness of PAMs, they have all been focused on specific populations or specific types of PAM or have included a limited number of randomised controlled trials. On the basis of the published literature, PAMs are expected to be effectively increasing physical activity behaviour in general. Nevertheless, as no systematic review has included all available studies, the evidence on the effectiveness of PAM based interventions promoting physical activity among all adults needs to be systematically reviewed according to best practice recommendations from the Cochrane Collaboration to provide high quality guidelines for a diverse audience with an interest in general medicine and public health.

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