Do Fitness Trackers Help You Lose Weight?
Overweight and obese body habitus have increased substantially in westernized nations over the last several decades and accordingly, so have chronic medical conditions associated with obesity including heart disease, strokes, diabetes and cancer.
Many interventions targeting weight loss, including various diet and exercise, have surfaced in an attempt to curb this epidemic.
One such method is wearable tech. We all know that smart watches, fitbits and other wearable tech have exploded over the last few years. You can obtain a lot of information from these devices such as your average heart rate, calories burned and number of steps in a day.
Short term studies have shown modest benefits in weight loss, however the authors of this study wanted to develop more robust data investigating the effect of wearable tech on long term weight loss.
They randomized 471 adults over 2 years.
Participants were placed on a low-calorie diet, prescribed increases in physical activity, and had group counseling sessions.
At 6 months, they added telephone counseling sessions, text message prompts, and access to website study materials.
At 6 months, half of participants were randomized to the enhanced intervention group were provided with a wearable device and accompanying web interface to monitor diet and physical activity.
Among the 471 participants randomized, 74.5% completed the study.
- Body mass index [BMI]: 25 to <40
- Age range: 18-35 years
- 28.9% non-white
- 77.2% women
Although both groups lost weight, surprisingly the group that did not use the wearable technology lost more weight over 24 months (5.9 kg/ 13 lb vs 3.5 kg/ 7.7 lb, p<0.003).
Both groups had significant improvements in body composition including lean mass, body fat%, as well as fitness, physical activity, and diet, with no significant difference between groups.
In young adults, the addition of wearable tech did not improve weight loss over a 24 month period. In fact, the opposite occurred and people who did not use the fitbit tech lost more weight.
These devices that monitor and provide feedback on heart rate, steps and calories burned may not offer an advantage over standard approaches to weight loss.