Clusters of adolescent physical activity tracker patterns and its associations with physical activity behaviours in Finland and Ireland: A cross-sectional study

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Abstract

Background: Physical activity trackers (PATs), such as applications (Apps) and wearable devices (e.g. sport watches and heart rate monitors), are increasingly being used by young adolescents. Despite the potential to monitor and improve moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) behaviours, there is a lack of research that confirms an association between PATs ownership or use, and physical activity (PA) behaviours at a population level.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine ownership and use of PATs in youth, and the associations with PA behaviours including daily MVPA, sport club membership and active travel, in two nationally representative samples of young adolescent males and females in Finland and Ireland.

Methods: Comparable data were gathered in the Finnish School-aged Physical Activity (F-SPA 2018; n=3311) and the Irish Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity (CSPPA 2018; n=4797) studies. A cluster analysis was performed to obtain the patterns of PATs ownership and usage by adolescents (age 11y –15y). Four similar clusters were identified across Finnish and Irish adolescents: 1) no PATs, 2) PATs owners, 3) Apps users, and 4) wearable device users. Adjusted binary logistic regression analyses were used to evaluate how PATs clusters were associated with PA behaviours, including daily MVPA, membership of sport clubs and active travel, after stratification by gender.

Results: The amount of Apps ownership among Finnish adolescents (61.5%) was almost double that of their Irish counterparts (36.2%). Apps users were more likely to take part in daily MVPA (males: OR=1.27, CI=1.04-1.55, females: OR=1.49, CI=1.20-1.85), be members of sport clubs (males: OR=1.37, CI=1.15-1.62, females: OR=1.25, CI=1.07-1.50), compared to no PATs cluster, after adjusting for country age, family affluence and disabilities. These associations, after the same adjustments, were even stronger for wearable device users to participate in daily MVPA (males: OR=1.83, CI=1.49-2.23, females: OR=2.25, CI=1.80-2.82), be members of sport clubs (males: OR=1.88, CI=1.55-.288, females: OR=2.07, CI=1.71-2.52).
Significant associations were observed between male wearable device users and taking part in active travel behaviours (OR=1.39, CI=1.04-1.86).

Conclusions: Although Finnish adolescents report more ownership of PATs than Irish adolescents, the patterns of use and ownership remain similar. PA behaviours were positively associated with wearable devices users and Apps users. These findings were similar between males and females. Given the cross-sectional nature of this data, the relationship between using Apps or wearable devices and enhancing PA behaviours remains unclear.

Trial Registration: Not necessary

Keywords: Wearables; children; activity trackers; active travel; organised sport; self-quantification
Original languageEnglish
JournalJMIR
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 14 Jun 2020

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