BYU researchers learn importance of tracking, in fitness and other goals

Sep 21, 2022, 6:00 AM | Updated: Sep 26, 2022, 9:58 am
BYU tracking...
FILE: A view of Fitbit's Versa 2 (Rachel Murray /Getty Images for Fitbit Local)
(Rachel Murray /Getty Images for Fitbit Local)

PROVO, Utah — Taking more steps throughout the day may be as easy as wearing a pedometer. The same may be true for cutting calories by tracking calories or cutting time spent on social media by tracking time spent on social media.

That’s according to researchers at Brigham Young University, who found that just by wearing a pedometer and tracking, study participants took 300 more steps than others who did not wear such a tracker.

Our mind helps us to accomplish something we set out to do, almost without our knowing it, the BYU researchers said.

“Humans are hardwired to respond to what is being measured,” said BYU Marriott School of Business Professor Bill Tayler, who authored a paper on the study.

Because if it’s being measured, it feels like it matters. When people go get an Apple Watch or a Fitbit, of course it’s going to affect their behavior; they obtained the device with the goal of walking more.”

It’s important for people to know that, by just being aware something is being tracked, a person can change their behavior Tayler said.


BYU tracking study details

In the study titled “The Effect of Wearable Activity Monitor Presence on Step Counts,” Tayler and the other authors asked 90 people to download an activity tracker app for iPhone.

The researchers gave 60 of the participants a pedometer to wear for two weeks. They asked 30 participants to record and submit their daily steps. They gave a control group of 30 people neither a pedometer nor asked to track their steps.

What the study participants didn’t know is an important part of the equation. Before the study got going, the researchers asked all 90 participants for their permission to pull general information from their phone. Namely, they were after step counts from the weeks before the study period began.

This gave researchers the baseline they needed, namely, how much the study participants walked when their steps weren’t being measured.

Based on the steps taken before the study started, and during the study, the researchers concluded that those who wore the pedometer and those who tracked their activity recorded more steps during the study period.

“Measurement and tracking precede improvement,” said study author and BYU graduate Christian Tadje in a press release. 

“If you want something to improve — for example, a key performance indicator in the workplace or a personal health goal — our study shows that you should consider tracking your progress.”

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BYU researchers learn importance of tracking, in fitness and other goals