Do fitness trackers really help people move more?

These gadgets are popular with avid exercisers, but they may also encourage sedentary people to become more active.

About one in five people has a smart watch or fitness tracker, according to a recent survey. These wrist-worn monitors are a handy way to track your daily steps, and they’re probably more accurate than the tally from your smartphone, which you might not carry with you every waking moment. Most wearable gadgets also offer an array of other data, such as your heart rate, walking pace, and more.

But does using one affect how active people are? According to the largest study to date on the topic, the answer is yes (see “Fitness trackers and activity levels: What’s the evidence?”). Regular physical activity is vital for a healthy heart, and the improvements seen in this study could potentially make a difference, says Dr. Megan Wasfy, a cardiologist at the Cardiovascular Performance Laboratory at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

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