Health tracking has become a normal part of everyday life for a lot of us. You can learn about your sleep patterns, mood, heart rate, steps, menstruation, and diet at the click of a button. But what’s the benefit of having access to all of this information? Can it improve behaviours that affect your health? Here’s what the research says so far.

The benefits of health tracking

Tracking your health has been linked to a range of benefits, including:

  • increased levels of physical activity
  • an improved diet
  • better weight management
  • better mental health — like lower stress levels

Thriva results on phone screen

How tracking can improve your health

There are a number of ways that tracking your health might lead to improvements — largely due to positive changes in your behaviour.

Health tracking can help make you more aware of your behaviours and patterns — like how active or inactive you are. This lets you make more personalised lifestyle improvements, rather than following the one-size-fits-all approach.

Being able to quickly access feedback about your health-related data can help you:

  • set goals
  • stay motivated

This is often due to the sense of achievement you feel when you get feedback that you’re doing well — reinforcing positive behaviours.

Advice and coaching
A lot of health tracking tools also share personalised health advice with you. So you’re more aware of lifestyle changes that can help improve your health.

Social factors
It’s common for health tracking tools to include features that let you engage with friends, family, and other users. Social factors like social support or competition have been shown to help keep you motivated and accountable.

Overall, evidence also shows that tracking your health can help make you more aware of your behaviours, offer advice and social support, and keep you motivated. This can lead to positive behavioural changes that ultimately might lead to improvements in your health.

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Attig, C., & Franke, T. (2019). I track, therefore I walk–Exploring the motivational costs of wearing activity trackers in actual users. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 127, 211-224.

Fritz, T., Huang, E. M., Murphy, G. C., & Zimmermann, T. (2014, April). Persuasive technology in the real world: a study of long-term use of activity sensing devices for fitness. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 487-496). ACM.

Economides, M., Martman, J., Bell, M. J., & Sanderson, B. (2018). Improvements in stress, affect, and irritability following brief use of a mindfulness-based smartphone app: a randomized controlled trial. Mindfulness, 9(5), 1584-1593.

Shin, G., Jarrahi, M. H., Fei, Y., Karami, A., Gafinowitz, N., Byun, A., & Lu, X. (2019). Wearable Activity Trackers, Accuracy, Adoption, Acceptance and Health Impact: A Systematic Literature Review. Journal of biomedical informatics, 103153.

Sullivan, A. N., & Lachman, M. E. (2017). Behavior change with fitness technology in sedentary adults: a review of the evidence for increasing physical activity. Frontiers in public health, 4, 289.