Although there is little scientific evidence that shows fitness trackers can help their wearer become healthier, these devices appear to be helpful to postmenopausal women who struggle with their weight.

Findings of a new study have revealed that overweight postmenopausal women could engage themselves in more physical activity when they use Fitbit than when they use a traditional pedometer.

For the new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine on June 10, Lisa Cadmus-Bertram, from the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and colleagues involved 51 overweight postmenopausal women, who were assigned to go through a self-monitoring activity intervention for four weeks.

The goal was for the women to walk 10,000 steps daily and get 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity weekly.

The participants wore an accelerometer so the researchers can track their movement albeit half of the women were assigned to use a Fitbit One tracker, which can be bought for about $100 from most retailers, while the other half were given a simple pedometer.

The researchers found that the women who used Fitbit increased the amount of time they spend for exercise by about an hour per week while those who used pedometers did not have significant improvements.

The women in the Fitbit group also added about 789 steps per week to their average of about 6,000 steps weekly prior to the start of the study.

The women in the Fitbit group did not increase their physical activity enough to meet the set goal of 150 minutes of physical activity per week but the researchers said that this should not be reason to be discouraged.

"The Fitbit was well accepted in this sample of women and associated with increased physical activity at 16 weeks," the researchers wrote. "Leveraging direct-to-consumer mHealth technologies aligned with behavior change theories can strengthen physical activity interventions."

Cadmus-Bertram said that a fitness tracker should be accurate enough so it can be helpful. It should also provide frequent feedback, encourage the wearer to aim for the set goals as well as provide recognition once these goals are achieved. Still, the researcher pointed out the limitations of these fitness devices.

"Trackers are an exciting new tool in the toolbox of behavioral science, but they aren't a silver bullet," Cadmus-Bertram said. "It can't do the exercise for you, but it can make improving your lifestyle a bit easier and more fun."

Photo: Ray Bouknight | Flickr

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