Wearable fitness trackers certainly have their benefits. They encourage us to get moving, set goals, and be more proactive about our health and well-being. But when it comes to weight loss, they may not be as effective as we think.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh recently recruited more than 450 overweight or obese individuals for a two-year study. For the first six months, all participants received the same information about diet and exercise and spent time in group counseling sessions. After that, half were given fitness trackers while the others were instructed to record their progress on a website.
At the end of the study period, those who wore fitness trackers lost about 5 pounds less than those who did not. Why? It may be because those in the former group were focused more on their physical activity and less on their overall nutrition, thinking that just increasing their weekly exercise was enough.
“We should not simply tell everyone to go and buy an activity monitor and that it will help them to lose weight,” said lead author John M. Jakicic, who added, “When it comes to the trackers, it’s possible that people who use these devices get a false sense of security.”
Other theories include that the fitness tracker wearers simply got bored with the devices—or didn’t like having to wear them in the first place—and stopped using them, leaving them to rely on just initial diet and exercise advice. In any case, study authors are eager to analyze their results further.