Sceptics dismissed fitness trackers as a waste of money and some even insist that it can even make you gain more weight. However, a new study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Education’s Department of Health and Physical Activity shows that fitness trackers can actually help you lose weight but it does not recommend the use of such devices.
This means that wearable devices that monitor physical activity are not good tools for weight loss, the researchers assert. They found that while those who wore such devices lost weight, they lost less than those who did not wear them.
For their study, now available in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the researchers followed 470 people, ages 18 to 35 with a BMI of 25 to 39, for 24 months. Seventy-seven percent of them were women and 29 percent were from minority groups.
Some of the participants wore fitness trackers while the others did not. All of them underwent a behavioral weight loss program, which included following a low-calorie diet, increasing their physical activity and participating in group-counseling sessions on health and nutrition.
In the end, those who wore the wearable devices experienced a weight loss of around 7.7 pounds or 3.5 kilograms on average. On the other hand, those who did not wear such devices lost around 13 pounds or 5.9 kilograms on average.
Fitness trackers are not reliable tools for weight loss. The researchers concluded that fitness trackers may provide feedback and encouragement during weight loss but they are not the most effective when it comes to persuading the participants to adhere to a healthy lifestyle.
“While usage of wearable devices is currently a popular method to track physical activity—steps taken per day or calories burned during a workout—our findings show that adding them to behavioral counseling for weight loss that includes physical activity and reduced calorie intake does not improve weight loss or physical activity engagement.
Therefore, within this context, these devices should not be relied upon as tools for weight management in place of effective behavioral counseling for physical activity and diet,” states lead researcher John Jakicic, the chair of Pitt’s Department of Health and Physical Activity.