Wearing, Thinking, and Moving: Testing the Feasibility of Fitness Tracking with Urban Youth

Sara E. Schaefer, Cynthia Carter Ching, Heather Breen, J. Bruce German

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Background: Wearable and mobile technologies are often used by people who wish to document their own health and lifestyle behaviors. The feasibility of health tracking among youth is unclear, particularly in low-resource communities where health strategies stand to have the greatest impact. Methods: Youth (n = 24) enrolled in an afterschool program in an urban school district were provided Fitbit physical activity monitors. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected over 6 months; logged data from Fitbit.com were examined to assess physical activity patterns and level engagement with the technology and focus groups were conducted to assess motivators and barriers to use. Results: Data logs revealed low continuous engagement that declined over time. Qualitative findings suggest that, when youth wore their devices, they noticed and engaged with their real-time device data in reflective ways. Some aspects of the device's form factor were problematic for these youth, and technology access, environmental constraints, and motivation were also barriers to continuous engagement. Translation to Health Education Practice: Taken together, these mixed methods findings suggest that effecting sustainable changes in youth behavior through health tracking alone is challenging. Adequate training, programmatic/staff support, technology access, and motivation may help sustain ongoing use and engagement. We recommend that health tracking in similar contexts be situated within educational curricula and/or a broader intervention that facilitates and motivates continuous engagement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-16
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health(social science)


Dive into the research topics of 'Wearing, Thinking, and Moving: Testing the Feasibility of Fitness Tracking with Urban Youth'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this