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Fitbit users sought for research project

By Marcus Butler

October 19: Active Canberrans who use activity trackers are being encouraged to step up and sign on to a new research project by the University of Canberra to increase understanding of physical activity levels in the local community.

Activity trackers are devices worn on the body to record movement, physical activity, sleep and in some cases they use GPS to track where that activity takes place. It’s estimated that around 12 per cent of Australians use an activity tracker daily.

Director of the University’s Health Research Institute Rachel Davey is leading the ACTive Community project with CSIRO’s Data61 which will gather de-identified data from Canberra-based activity tracker users.

Professor Davey explained the project at today’s launch held on campus at the Ann Harding Conference Centre, where she was joined by Glenn Hassett from the CBR Innovation Network and ACT Heart Foundation CEO Tony Stubbs.

“Activity trackers generate a lot of data so this project is looking to aggregate that ‘big data’ to determine the physical activity patterns and health of people in the ACT, and to create activity profiles across different suburbs,” Professor Davey said.

“This information can help identify lifestyle behavioural risk-factors for the prevention of chronic disease, such as type-2 diabetes or heart disease. We can also aggregate de-identified data into groups and sub-populations and examine how people’s neighbourhood environment can impact on physical activity levels.”

A pilot of the study has been running in a limited format for two months with participants from across the University, but now the project is going live across the ACT and researchers need more participants to sign up.

Professor Davey said those who volunteer to participate in the project will be able to sign up to a ‘MyHealth’ option which will provide participants with a health ‘report card’ on their lifestyle risk.

“We want to be able to enhance the information that users get from their activity tracker and offering an extra health ‘report card’ is one way to add value to their device,” she said.

“It’s a nice trade off, users will be able to use this information to improve their lifestyle and we’ll be using the data to better inform things like better urban planning for Canberra. Our aim is to develop Canberra as a city which encourages and enables physical activity for all ages and abilities.”

Location-based activity information will also be available to give Canberrans a glimpse of the activity levels in their own suburbs, and to compare themselves with those living in other suburbs across the ACT.  

The University is collaborating with Data61 and the project is funded by the CBR Innovation Fund. Currently ACTive Community is only seeking participants living in the ACT who use FitBit™ but plan to expand to other devices in the future.

To participate in the study complete the registration at https://activecommunity.com.au/ and follow the directions to connect your FitBit™ account to the project.