Theses Doctoral

How Activity Monitor Use Is Associated With Motivation and Physical Activity Behavior

Friel, Ciarán Peter

Wearable physical activity (PA) monitors have been adopted by millions of people across the United States, but we do not fully understand who wears them and why. The devices have been promoted as a tool that motivates users by collecting data on their daily activities and delivering tailored feedback based on predetermined goals. The purpose of this dissertation was twofold: 1) To describe users of activity monitors detailing how and why they used this technology, and 2) To explore the motivational profile of activity monitor users and assess how it is related to PA. This dissertation consists of a series of two separate but related studies.
The first study recruited over 2000 activity monitor users from across the United States to complete a web-based survey describing why they used this technology and how they interacted with their device. This study showed significant differences in sociodemographic and use characteristics between current and former users and between women and men. Activity monitors were perceived by users as influential on their PA behavior and differences in use patterns between subgroups warranted further exploration of associations between user characteristics, motivation to exercise, and PA.
The second study investigated the motivation and PA of activity monitor users. While activity monitors have been widely promoted as a means to motivate users to be more active, the motivational profile of users has never been assessed. While all motivational regulations were significantly correlated with PA, the strongest associations were with the more self-determined motives (integrated, identified and intrinsic respectively). Five motivational profiles emerged from the cluster analysis: ‘High Amotivation’ (n=30), ‘Autonomous with High Introjected’ (n=101), ‘Low Overall Motivation’ (n=61), ‘High Controlled Motivation (n=47), and ‘Autonomous with Low Introjected’ (n=81). Profiles characterized by more autonomous regulations had higher levels of PA.
These studies offer new insights on who activity monitor users are, why they decide to use this technology, and how they interact with their devices. While the second study identified an association between motivational profiles and PA, further longitudinal research is needed to assess whether use of an activity monitor impacts the direction and/or magnitude of this relationship.


  • thumnail for Friel_tc.columbia_0055E_10849.pdf Friel_tc.columbia_0055E_10849.pdf application/pdf 7.88 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Biobehavioral Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Ciccolo, Joseph
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
November 9, 2018