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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

Industrial Engineering & Operations Research

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, and older adults are at highest risk of being diagnosed with heart disease. Consistent physical exercise is an effective means of deterring onset of heart disease, and physical activity tracking devices can inspire greater activity in older adults. However, physical activity tracking device abandonment is quite common due to limitations on what can be learned from the activity data that is collected. Better data visualization of physical data presents an opportunity to surpass these limitations. In this thesis, a task-based human subject study was performed with three different data visualizations to gain insight into how the format of physical activity data visualizations impact older adults’ abilities to infer meaning from physical activity data. Participants (n = 30) interacted with a prototype data visualization as well as two data visualizations from popular fitness tracking applications (Fitbit and Strava) and used these visualizations to complete 11 tasks. Results from these tasks show each visualization was able to facilitate users answer some task questions effectively, though no visualizations exhibited strong performance across all tasks. From the successes and shortcomings of each visualization, three key design recommendations for the design of data visualizations for physical activity data were made: 1) make exact values available, 2) summarize data at multiple timescales, and 3) ensure accessibility for the entire population of users.


First Advisor

Jenna Marquard