A new JAMA study suggests that you are likely wasting your money on a wearable device. On their own, wearable devices do not lead to healthier behavior. They can make it easier to behave in healthy ways, such as eating well, exercising and managing your medications, but only if you are motivated to do so. And, wearable devices are expensive, generally appealing to younger and wealthier people when in fact researchers believe they are more likely to benefit older adults who are not well-off.
What is a wearable device? It is a piece of technology that you can wear on your clothing or as an accessory. It measures your behavior, including the number of steps you take in a day and sleep patterns. This could be powerful information if people changed their behavior for the better as a result of wearing a device.
However, researchers found that people who know that they should exercise more or need more sleep do not appear to change their behavior because a wearable device advises that they do so.Wearable devices are still in their infancy. Less than two percent of the population has actually used a wearable device. And, wearable devices could be better designed to nudge people to change their behavior.
That said, the best nudge might be a health care buddy, a good friend or health partner—someone you love or someone you want to impress—who can motivate you to engage in healthy behavior that you might not otherwise do.