Effects of Wearable Activity Trackers on Habitual Physical Activity in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Whitney Au, Francesco Recchia, Daniel Fong, Stephen Wong, Derwin Chan, Catherine Capio, Clare Yu, Sam Wong, Cindy Sit, Yajun Chen, Walter Thompson, Parco SIU (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Background: Increasing physical inactivity in children and adolescents has become a pressing public health concern. Wearable activity trackers can allow self-monitoring of physical activity (PA) behaviour and promote autonomous motivation for exercise. However, the effects of wearable trackers on habitual PA in children and adolescents remain uncertain.

Methods: This systematic review and meta-analysis examined the effects of wearable activity trackers on habitual PA in both healthy and diseased young cohorts (PROSPERO registration: CRD42023397248). Four databases were searched on 18 May 2023 without restrictions on language or publication date. Only randomised controlled trials or clustered randomised controlled trials on the use of wearable activity trackers in participants aged ≤19 were included. The two objectively measured primary outcomes were daily steps and moderate-to-vigorous PA. A random-effect model with Hartung-Knapp adjustments was used to calculate standardised mean differences. Between-study heterogeneity was examined using Higgins I2 and Cochran Q statistic. Publication bias was assessed using Egger’s regression test.

Findings: The meta-analysis included 21 studies involving 3676 children and adolescents [male=56%; mean age=13.68 (SD=2.72)]. There was a significant increase in objectively measured daily steps [g=0.37; 95% CI, 0.09 to 0.65; P=.013; I2=72.7% (95% CI, 53.4%-84.0%)], but not for moderate-to-vigorous PA [g=-0.08; 95% CI, −0.18 to 0.02; P=.11; I2=0% (95% CI, 0.0%-53.6%)].

Interpretation: Wearable activity trackers in children and adolescents were effective in increasing daily steps in both healthy and diseased groups, but did not affect moderate-to-vigorous PA. This highlights the potential of activity tracker interventions for improving habitual PA in the young population. Future studies with more rigorous methods for monitoring adherence to the activity tracker are warranted to substantiate our results.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Lancet Digital Health
Publication statusSubmitted - 25 Sept 2023


  • Wearable Activity Trackers, Physical Activity, Children and Adolescents


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