The popularity of health tracking technology has accelerated in recent years, with smartphone apps and “wearables” able to gather data on steps taken, distance run, calories burned and other health metrics. How popular is such technology across Asia-Pacific markets and can it help people adopt healthy habits?
The 2018 AIA Healthy Living Index survey sought to find out. In general, people in the region are positive about the motivating force of activity tracking technology: most (68 per cent) consider such devices easy to use and 65 per cent think they motivate positive changes in behaviour.
Usage rates vary by market. Across the region 15 per cent of all adults have tried using activity trackers before but, as may be expected, those in richer economies are more likely to have done so. Almost one in three (30 per cent) in Singapore, one in four in China (25 per cent) and over one in five (23 per cent) in Australia have tried them out, compared to fewer than one person in 20 (under 5 per cent) in each of Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.
Whether or not these trackers work is the subject of ongoing academic study but the consensus appears to be that they can help with healthy habits. A study published in 2017 in Sports Medicine, for instance, suggests step counters can help inactive people increase their activity by 2,500 steps per day. They are far from a panacea though: our survey found that more than one in three people who have tried to use them (37 per cent) no longer do so, owing to issues like the effort and costs involved; some 1 in 4 also say using trackers hasn’t been effective.