dscf2011Quantified Self is getting more and more attention in healthcare and research. As an Exercise therapist and Human movement scientist, I am interested in physical activity behavior and new technologies that can contribute to increment of physical activity behavior. That’s why I started a PhD-trajectory about this topic three years ago. I am doing this PhD within the research group ‘Healthy Ageing, Allied Health Care and Nursing’ of Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen, with Martijn de Groot (co-founder of the Quantified Self Institute) as my supervisor.

During my PhD I am trying to answer three major questions: 1) Which activity trackers are reliable and valid? 2) How well and why are people using Quantified Self devices? and 3) Can Quantified Self devices impact physical activity behavior and health in people who have overweight/obesity or diabetes type 2?


Which activity trackers are valid and reliable?
We answered this question by looking how accurate the devices were on a treadmill and in real life. We have now published two articles about this topic. In the first article, we found that the Fitbit Zip, followed by the Misfit Shine and Lumoback were the most reliable and valid both on a treadmill as in daily life whereas the Nike+ Fuelband and Moves app were not reliable and valid. In the second paper, we found that the reliability and validity of the devices largely depends on walking speed. Hereby, we found that at the highest speed of 6.4 km/h the three smartwatches including the Apple watch were the most valid. On the slowest speed the Garmin Vivosmart and Fitbit Charge HR showed the best results. The first article can be found here. The second paper will appear online soon!

How well and why are people using Quantified Self devices?
To answer this question we have set up a study within the Lifelines cohort study. We included 100 participants, who all have received a wireless scale and the Pulse Ox activity tracker from Withings. Both devices are connected with the same smartphone app where goals can be entered and one can see the progress. We want to examine how the use of these devices are over time, and what the explaining factors are for the use of these devices. We are doing this with several questionnaires examining device factors, behavioral factors and personal factors. Do younger people use these devices more often? Does motivation to lose weight matter for long-term use? People have been using their devices for a few months now. Soon I will start to analyze the data.

Can Quantified Self devices impact physical activity behavior and health in people who have  overweight/obesity or Diabetes type 2?
To answer my last question, I’ve cooperated with Herman de Vries for a literature review. This review was about the effect of activity tracker use on physical activity levels and weight in people with overweight/obesity. This review revealed that adding an activity tracker had a positive impact to intervention programs. Also, interventions with a tracker showed slightly better results on physical activity compared to interventions without an activity tracker. A nice interview with Herman about this review was published at Smarthealth last month.

Also, we are currently doing a study for people with type 2 diabetes, within two hospitals: the Bethesda hospital in Hoogeveen and the Martini Hospital in Groningen. Herefore, we worked together with different companies and institutions to develop a digital health program, especially for this target group. The program is connected to the Fitbit zip, and the participants received feedback messages with regard to their physical activity level in the previous week. We designed the study as a randomized controlled trial to investigate whether this program is effective for increment of physical activity and improvement of health. One group received the eHealth program with an activity tracker while the other group received care as usual. The results are almost complete! At this moment, we know that most intervention participants have increased their physical activity levels so that’s good news. Soon the effects on health related measures such as blood glucose levels will become clear. To be continued….

Written by Thea Kooiman
PhD candidate at Hanze UAS