Minnesota Nursing magazine

Can Fitbits help students establish healthy habits?

Ten University of Minnesota nursing students rang in the New Year with Fitbits on their wrists for a wearable technology study, led by Associate Professor Carolyn Porta, PhD, MPH, RN, SANE-A, with collaborators Clinical Assistant Professor Barb Peterson, PhD, APRN, PMHCNS-BC, School of Nursing; Boynton Health Research Director Katie Lust, PhD, MPH, RD; Associate Professor Marla Eisenberg, ScD, MPH, Department of Pediatrics; and Glen Morris, undergraduate research assistant. The students are wearing the devices for three months, tracking their steps, activity intensity, sleep and calories burned. They have access to their personal data in real time, and Porta is gathering pilot data to inform a larger health promotion study, including important information about students’ compliance.

While anyone could benefit from health information collected with a wearable device, college students are at a critical point in life in understanding themselves and establishing healthy behaviors. College students are often sleep deprived and report experiencing high levels of stress. Awareness of their physiological patterns could yield purposeful behavior change to improve their well-being or increase help-seeking behaviors. Thus far, one participant said she is paying more attention to when her heart rate is higher than she wants it to be. Another participant was positively surprised by how quickly she falls asleep at night and how many steps she takes during a regular work shift.

National insurance companies have explored providing wearable devices to members because simple personalized health information might result in more preventive behaviors, fewer hospital visits and reduced health care costs. New Year’s resolutions, or not, these nursing students continue to wear their Fitbits, day and night.


Center for Child and Family Health Promotion Research

Jayne Fulkerson

Center Director: 
Jayne Fulkerson, PhD

To improve the health of infants, children, adolescents, parents, and families in the context of their communities. Center members develop and disseminate evidence-based interventions and best practices in primary and secondary prevention.

For more information:
Email: CCFHPR@umn.edu