Activity trackers may not be the key to losing weight

Author: talkhealth

Date: Feb 2017

A recent study, published in September 2016 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at wearable technology and the effects of activity trackers on long term weight loss. 471 people aged between 18 and 35 were recruited onto the research programme through the University of Pittsburgh in the US. Most of the cohort were women who were overweight or obese (but not morbidly obese). Participants were split into two groups with both groups placed on a low calorie diet, instructed to take more exercise and provided with group counselling sessions during the initial 6 months of the research. Each of the groups lost about the same amount of weight during this period.

After 6 months one group were asked to monitor their diet in a more traditional way by recording their calorie intake and exercise themselves in a web-based diary. The other group were given an activity tracker to wear with exercise information being uploaded automatically to a website. Both groups were still given the same diet and exercise programme and emotional support and monitored for a further 18 months.

Participants in the group that wore an activity tracker lost on average 5 pounds less weight than the group not using a tracker.

“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 behavioural counselling or 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 behavioural counselling for physical activity and diet,” said John Jakicic, the study’s lead researcher and chair of Pitt’s Department of Health and Physical Activity.

Sources used in writing this article are available on request

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Last revised: 27 November 2017

Next review: 27 November 2020