When fitness trackers like Fitbit and Nike’s FuelBand first burst onto the scene a couple of years ago, it seemed like everyone and their mothers were sporting those little plastic bracelets.
Touted as an easy way to get a little extra activity in your life, it’s no surprise the devices sold like hotcakes and are now a must-have “health” accessory for many Canadians.
However, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found evidence that fitness trackers aren’t exactly as effective as you think if you’re trying to lose some extra pounds.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh monitored 471 overweight or obese adults between the ages of 18 and 34 for two years. The participants were told to follow a low-calorie diet and an exercise plan, and were invited to attend group counseling sessions. Six months into the study, half of the group were given a Fit Core armband to use to track their progress, while the other half were told to continue keeping track on their own.
Surprisingly, the group that used fitness trackers lost, on average, six pounds less than the group that went without.
The diet and exercise cohort lost about 13 pounds per person, while the fitness tracker group lost around seven pounds each.
While the researchers don’t know exactly why the fitness tracker participants weren’t as successful, they believe it might be due to a ‘false sense of security’ that the devices provide.
“They are relying on the device or technology a little bit too much, and that may be why we saw a little bit less weight loss in that group,” study leader Dr. John Jakicic told Daily Mail.
This makes sense considering that other studies have shown that these wearable devices aren’t always so accurate. If you’re looking at a bracelet to tell you how many calories you’ve burned, you could end up overeating and totally blowing your diet.
All this doesn’t mean that you should throw away your Fitbit. After all, there is a lot more to being healthy than reaching a certain number on a scale. This viral post from fitness blogger Kelsey Wells highlights this misconception extremely well – she gained 18 pounds after achieving her “goal weight” and looks better than ever after adding more muscle to her frame and lowering her body fat.
The fitness tracker study also adds weight (so to speak) to this notion – the research indicates that both groups saw improvements in their overall fitness, physical activity, diet, and body composition.
So at the end of the day, it’s clear that wearables aren’t the be-all-end-all of living a healthier lifestyle. But if they help get you moving, then it’s still money well spent in my opinion.