Impact of a workplace physical activity tracking program on biometric health outcomes.
- Citation data:
Preventive medicine, ISSN: 1096-0260, Vol: 105, Page: 135-141
- Publication Year:
Wellness programs are a popular strategy utilized by large U.S. employers. As mobile health applications and wearable tracking devices increase in prevalence, many employers now offer physical activity tracking applications. This longitudinal study evaluates the impact of engagement with a web-based, physical activity tracking program on changes in individuals' biometric outcomes in an employer population. The study population includes active employees and adult dependents continuously enrolled in an eligible health plan and who have completed at least two biometric screenings (n=36,882 person-years with 11,436 unique persons) between 2011 and 2014. Using difference-in-differences (DID) regression, we estimate the effect of participation in the physical activity tracking application on BMI, total cholesterol, and blood pressure. Participation was significantly associated with a reduction of 0.275 in BMI in the post-period, relative to the comparison group, representing a 1% change from baseline BMI. The program did not have a statistically significant impact on cholesterol or blood pressure. Sensitivity checks revealed slightly larger BMI reductions among participants with higher intensity of tracking activity and in the period following the employer's shift to an outcomes-based incentive design. Results are broadly consistent with the existing literature on changes in biometric outcomes from workplace initiatives promoting increased physical activity. Employers should have modest expectations about the potential health benefits of such programs, given current designs and implementation in real-world settings.