Wearables help monitor and track the user's every movement, whether it's when they are working out, sleeping or just going about their day.
Wearing an activity tracker on your wrist each day might help motivate the user to reach their steps goal, drink more water or get a better night's sleep. The idea is that those who wear these devices can track every aspect of their health and wellness to then analyze the data to reach their goals.
However, according to a new study, wearing that fitness tracker may not really help users lose weight.
Researchers from the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh recruited close to 500 men and women ages 18 to 35 with BMIs ranging from 25 to 39 who were looking to lose weight
At the start of the study, the participants were weighed and asked to follow a low-calorie diet and complete 100 minutes of moderate activity each week for a span of six months. To keep track of their progress, they kept a food journal and recorded their workouts, along with attending weekly meetings.
This program proved to be successful when all the participants lost weight.
The volunteers were then divided into two groups at random for the remainder of the 24-month-long study. Half of the participants were given a wearable activity tracker from BodyMedia Fit, whereas the other half were asked to continue to track their daily progress on a website. Both groups continued to receive health and nutrition counseling, but the weekly group sessions were reduced to just 10-minute phone calls once a month and weekly text messages.
While many might assume that the group with the fitness tracker would exercise more and better manage their weight, this was not the case. In fact, the study found that not only did the tracker not help with weight loss, the other group actually lost more without them.
Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the researchers found that despite the fact that both groups did have improvements when it came to their diet and level of physical activity, the group that wore the fitness trackers lost 7.7 pounds on average, whereas the group without them lost 13 pounds.
One of the reasons why the activity tracker didn't help the participants lose more weight could be that the wearable does help users keep active throughout the day. However, with the amount of exercise the user does, they might feel like they earned themselves a bigger meal. Of course, we all know that abs are made in the kitchen.
However, the researchers found that, despite having the activity monitors, this group actually worked out less than those without wearables. Another reason for why the fitness tracker group didn't lose as much weight could be related to the fact that wearables aren't really a long-term weight loss aid. The devices might motivate people when they first get them, but the excitement and commitment to the new toy may fizzle over time.
It's also possible that people tend to give up on exercising when they realize they are not going to reach that daily goal — something a fitness tracker makes sure we are aware about.
The study reveals that while fitness trackers may be purchased with good intentions, it's good, old-fashioned consistent diet and exercise that really leads to weight loss.