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Activity monitors may enhance the benefits of physical activity programs in adults with overweight or obesity

de Vries J, Kooiman T, van Ittersum M, et al. Do activity monitors increase physical activity in adults with overweight or obesity? A systematic review and meta-analysis Obesity. 2016;24:2078-91.

Review question

Does using an activity monitor help to increase physical activity in adults with overweight or obesity?


Physical activity has important health benefits, especially for adults with overweight or obesity. Activity monitors, such as pedometers or accelerometers, assist individuals in monitoring their own physical activity. This self-monitoring may help individuals to increase their physical activity.

How the review was done

This review includes 14 studies of 1157 participants. Of these, results from 11 randomized controlled trials were combined in a meta-analysis.

  • All studies included adults with overweight or obesity (body mass index >27.0 kg/m2)
  • Seven studies compared physical activity programs using activity monitors to no physical activity program, and seven studies compared physical activity programs using activity monitors to physical activity programs without an activity monitor.
  • The physical activity programs used a variety of strategies such as individual or group education sessions, emails, telephone calls, websites, DVDs, and/or books or manuals to help participants increase their physical activity.
  • Duration of the various programs varied from 6-weeks to 12-months
  • The researchers measured changes in participants’ physical activity levels from the beginning to the end of the programs, including number of steps, time spent walking and time spent doing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

What the researchers found

People in physical activity programs with activity monitors were more likely to spend time doing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, and walked more than people who did not take part in a physical activity program. Physical activity programs that used activity monitors were more effective at increasing walking time than programs that did not use an activity monitor, but more research is needed to determine whether they are more effective at increasing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. The amount of change and types of physical activity programs varied greatly across studies. 


Starting a physical activity program that uses an activity monitor helps adults with overweight or obesity to increase physical activity levels and walking time. More research is needed to determine whether adding an activity monitor to an existing physical activity program will provide additional benefits to adults with overweight or obesity who are trying to increase their physical activity levels.



Advanced statistical methods contrasting and combining results from different studies.
Randomized controlled trials
Studies where people are assigned to one of the treatments purely by chance.

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