Andrew Petersen and William Tayler, Accounting
The purpose of this project was to test whether wearing a fitness tracker, such as a Fitbit, induces wearers to increase their physical activity. We believe that when wearers know that their physical activity is being measured, they will accelerate their physical activity. To test this hypothesis, we needed a control group where we could record participants’ physical activity when the participants were unaware they were being measured. This was accomplished by using the iPhone pedometer which is automatically activated upon purchase, and relatively unknown by iPhone users. The treatment groups were given a MiFit band, which is a less expensive fitness tracker similar to the Fitbit. This enabled us to observe how knowledge of measurement changes behavior. At the completion of the study period, the iPhone pedometer data from all groups was compared.
We used the BYU Marriott School SONA system to recruit 90 participants to participate in our study. The participants were required to have an iPhone 5S or higher version of the iPhone. This was necessary as we needed iPhone pedometer data, which is only available on the iPhone 5S or higher. The 90 participants were randomly assigned to three different groups; a control group, a measurement group, and a measure and record group, each group consisting of 30 subjects. The control group was not given a fitness tracker, and served as the comparison to the treatment groups. The measurement group was given a fitness tracker, but was unable to monitor the number of steps they took each day. They simply knew that their physical activity was being measured. The measure and record group was given a fitness tracker and the ability to monitor their step count. This group was asked to keep a record of their steps each day.
Participants signed up to initiate the study across a two-day period as it was not possible to initiate all participants in one day. Each participant had their own specific initiation time, separate from all other participants assigned to the same treatment or control group. Participants also signed up for a return time two weeks after the day they began the study. A separate room was designated for each treatment and control group to initiate the study. This was necessary to keep the control group from guessing the purpose of the study by overhearing the instructions provided to the treatment groups, which could change their behavior. As participants entered the study they were given a “Consent to be a Research Subject” form. This form detailed the type of information we would and wouldn’t gather, that we would be installing an app on their phone, risks/discomforts, benefits, confidentiality, and compensation provided to the subject. If the subject agreed to the study, we then asked for their phone and checked to see if they had disabled the pedometer on their iPhone. If the subjects had disabled the pedometer they were given an early exit survey, paid, and instructed to cancel their return appointment as they were no longer qualified to participate in the study. If the pedometer was not disabled, they were given a survey that asked for demographic information and the model of their iPhone. If the subject was in the control group, the subject was paid, dismissed, and asked to return at their respective time in two weeks. If the subject was in the measurement group they were given a fitness tracker and instructed to wear it for the following two weeks, return at their respective time in two weeks, informed that the fitness tracker would track their steps, paid, and dismissed. If the subject was in the measurement and record group, they were given a fitness tracker and instructed to wear it for the following two weeks. We also downloaded an app on the subjects’ phone which allowed the subject to monitor the steps recorded by the fitness tracker. The subject was then instructed to record their steps each day for the following two weeks. The subject was then asked to return at their respective time in two weeks, paid, and dismissed.
After two weeks, the participants returned to finish the study. The subjects were given an exit survey that asked information about their physical activity during the study period, where they carry their iPhone, and if they already own a fitness tracker.
We then installed an app on the subject’s phone to gather the subject’s iPhone pedometer data. The app allowed us to gather all pedometer data recorded by the iPhone from the time the subject purchased the iPhone. If the subjects were given a fitness tracker, they then returned the tracker. All apps that had been downloaded on the subjects’ phone were uninstalled. The subjects were then paid and dismissed.
We then used the gathered iPhone pedometer data to compare across the treatment groups. We compared the control, measure, and measure and record groups’ physical activity before and during the study. We then compared the results across groups.
Results and Discussion
The results were significant between measurement conditions, meaning that subjects who knew their physical activity was being measured significantly increased their physical activity as compared to the control group, who did not know they were being measured. This supports our hypothesis that when wearers of fitness trackers know that their physical activity is being measured, they will accelerate their physical activity. The results between the measurement and measurement and record groups was not significant, but directionally consistent. Although the results don’t show that monitoring and recording physical activity significantly increases physical activity as compared to only knowledge of measurement, it does show that there is an indication that monitoring and recording physical activity can increase physical activity.
We are currently in the process of refining our results by reanalyzing the data controlling for different variables. Depending on the results of our analysis, we will determine the probability our paper will be accepted by our target journals.