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Are fitness trackers effective for weight loss?

Fitness tracker

Are fitness trackers effective for weight loss?

In a word, no, according to the findings of one recently published, two-year study.

Study details

The study aimed to find whether the use of technology components improved weight loss outcomes. Study participants were divided into two groups and prescribed a low-calorie diet, instructed to increase their physical activity and attend weekly group counseling sessions.

Only one group was given a fitness tracking device to wear. Interestingly, the group that did not use the fitness tracking device actually lost more weight at the conclusion of the study.

Understandably, the researchers who conducted the study were baffled by the results. Aren’t all these fitness trackers supposed to be helping people lose weight? How could this possibly happen? I have a few ideas.

More than technology

First of all, losing weight takes changing behaviors. Slapping an activity tracker on your wrist will not cause you to magically drop pounds if you do not make specific and measurable changes to your eating and activity habits. In addition, whether the fitness tracker counts steps or calories burned, an individual might see that as justification to eat more.

For example, the fitness tracker shows you’ve burned 300 calories so you splurge on dessert. Unfortunately that dessert likely contains more than 300 calories so you’ve basically eaten all of your exercise calories and then some. Add on the fact that most people tend to underestimate the calories they eat during the day.

Great, so should I trash my activity tracker then? Not necessarily. If by wearing it you find yourself purposely moving more to increase your steps, then it’s doing its job. Just try not to look at the calories burned or steps taken as a license to eat with wild abandon. Lasting weight loss comes from making healthy food choices including plenty or fruits and vegetables and getting around one hour of daily exercise most days of the week. For most people setting and sticking with a daily calorie goal is the best way to accomplish this.

No matter how many electronic gadgets come out, there is no quick-fix magic bullet to achieve better health or lose weight. To reach your health and weight goals eating a healthy diet and regular exercise will always need to be a part of your plan.

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About Angie Cassity

Angie Cassity, M.Ed.ES, is a health coach for Via Christi.