Can activity trackers help people living with and beyond cancer build habits?

This article has been originally published on the GAMO Network+ blog. Authors: GAMO Fellows Cindy Forbes, Danny Harrison, Kathy Stawarz and Max Western.

During the Grant Writing Collaboration workshop in December 2019, our group of GetAMoveOn (GAMO) Fellows had a keen interest in using wearable tech to help people create physical activity routines. How best to use wearable tech to start an activity routine? How to turn that routine it into a habit?

We conceived this project during a walking break in the countryside. This project would bring together our expertise in behaviour change, measurement, and human computer interactions. Our goal: to find how wearable activity trackers could better support people in physical activity habit formation.

The Project

We used mixed methods to collect data about how people living with and beyond cancer might use and feel about wearable activity trackers (e.g. Fitbits) and physical activity.

The study was designed to have three parts. In the first 6-week observational study, people would simply wear a Fitbit and complete a brief Ecological Momentary Assessment twice daily (a 2-minute survey on their smartphone). Next, follow-up qualitative interviews would dig deeper into their thoughts and experiences from those first 6 weeks. Finally, workshops would be conducted to co-design a future intervention based on what we found in the observational study and the qualitative interviews.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to quickly adjust our original face-to-face study intentions to be delivered online. Happily, we were still able to recruit a good group of people living with and beyond cancer, largely from the Yorkshire region, to participate.
To date, we have completed data collection for parts 1 and 2. We are currently analysing our data. It turned out to be a lot! We are also planning for our final workshops, scheduled for the end of June.

Lessons Learned

Obvious lessons learned include:

Fellowship Benefits

Throughout this project, and the GAMO fellowship experience, it has been a wonderful opportunity to work with people that we may never have met otherwise. Being exposed to a new perspectives and different ways of thinking – very different from what you are used to – pushes you to grow. This project has pushed us all to grow, think quickly, and create and adapt new methods.

This network, both within our project and the larger GAMO group, has given us the opportunity to explore new areas of physical activity research, use new research methods, learn new skills, and foster new and hopefully, long-term collaborations.

~Falka, 5 July 21