Wearable fitness trackers could slow weight loss progress

A report has recently been released that indicates that motion-tracking devices such as the Fitbit, Jawbone, and Nike fuel band, may not actually help users lose weight. The report, released last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said that, out of 471 study participants, those using motion-tracking fitness devices actually lost less weight.

The study, a randomized clinical trial conducted at the University of Pittsburgh between October 2010 and October 2012, looked at 471 adults between the Body Mass Index range of 25 to 40, and between the ages of 18 and 35, who were placed on low-calorie diets and prescribed increased physical activity. Body mass index, or BMI, is the measure of a person’s weight relative to their height and is intended to give an estimation of the person’s total body fat.

Six months into the study, some of the group were asked to self-monitor their diets and physical activity using a website. Others were also given a wearable motion-tracking device along with the website.

 Wearable fitness trackers cost a lot and may cost you when it comes to weight loss. / Fitbit.com

Wearable fitness trackers cost a lot and may cost you when it comes to weight loss. / Fitbit.com

At the end of the study, both groups had significant improvements in body composition, fitness, physical activity, and diet. There were no significant differences in the group aside from actual weight loss. While the group who monitored their physical activity and diet on the website alone, had a mean weight loss amount of 5.9 kilograms, the group with the wearable devices lost only 3.5 kilograms.

“These technologies are focused on physical activity, like taking steps and getting your heart rate up. People would say, ‘Oh, I exercised a lot today, now I can eat more.’ And they might eat more than they otherwise would have,” said the study’s lead author John Jakicic, a researcher of health and physical activity at the University of Pittsburgh, in an interview with NPR.

The study concluded that, “devices that monitor and provide feedback on physical activity may not offer an advantage over standard behavioral weight loss approaches.”

These wearable devices can cost anywhere from $30 for models that will only track your steps such as the Jawbone UP and the Misfit Flash, to considerably more high end models like the Fitbit Surge ($330) and the Apple Watch Series 2 ($489). The conclusions of this particular study, completed before more interactive models of these devices were available, might lead to questions of whether they are worth the rather heavy price tag.

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