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Fitness Wearables: Are They Just a Shiny Penny in Employee Wellness?

September 24 - Posted at 2:00 PM Tagged: , , ,

Fitness wearables are hot right now—from trackers to watches to smart clothing from Ralph Lauren—it seems everyone wants to be part of the fitness wearables party. According to recent research, the wearables market keeps growing for both employers and consumers. 

Consider the facts:

  • 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 18 owns a fitness tracker
  • 46% of employers in a recent survey said they offer fitness trackers as part of their employee wellness programs
  • By 2018, employers will integrate more than 13 million wearables into their employee wellness programs
  • 41% of employers plan to spend more on technology in 2015—including wearable wellness technology
  • More than 171 million wearable devices will be shipped in 2016, up from 14 million shipped in 2011

There are plenty of reasons consumers—including your employees—are embracing fitness wearables:

  • Easy to use. Wearables make it fun and simple for employees to put their everyday routine to work toward their health and wellness goals.
  • Saves time. Wearables can be a great fit for employees who have little time to track their health behaviors.
  • Reinforces behavior change. Fitness wearables make it easy for employees to track changes in their health and monitor their progress.
  • Fosters social connection. Wearables link participants to an online community of health—whether it is connecting with co-workers, friends or family.

While it’s clear that wearables have sparked an interest in employee health and wellness, do fitness trackers and wearables result in long-term behavior change for the individuals that wear them?

If you provide fitness trackers to your employees—or if you own a tracker yourself—you may know the excitement of wearing it the first day. Employees feel “cool,” tracking their steps and competing with their co-workers to keep them motivated. But when—and if—the fun factor wears off, some may lose interest.

Even the hottest fitness trackers fall victim to the “shiny penny syndrome,” where employees—and employers—are easily attracted to newest, latest and greatest tool only to lose interest when the next “shiny penny” comes along.

How long does interest in fitness wearables typically last? Just six months, according to a report from Endeavour Partners. The report states that after six months of use, one-third of consumers stop using their fitness wearable devices. And more than half of Americans who have owned a wearable activity tracker no longer use it.

When integrated into a corporate wellness strategy, wearables can make it easier for participants to track changes in their health and monitor their progress. And for some participants, wearable devices can serve as a critical spark to engage them in a journey towards better health.

However, research from the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that wearables alone cannot induce sustainable behavior change, but are best used as tools to support behavior change and to help people feel connected.

Creating an environment to make healthy choices easy for employees is equally important to improve employee health outcomes as the programs and services used to spark initial change.

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