Using wearable fitness trackers may not lead to sustained weight loss, a study has found. (ISTOCKPHOTO)
The question

Wearable fitness trackers — devices that track your every step — aim to get people up and moving. Does that lead to sustained weight loss?

This study

The study involved 471 people, 18 to 35 years old, who were overweight or obese and participating in a weight-loss program with diet, exercise and counseling components. Six months into the program, they were randomly assigned either to use a website to monitor their diet and physical activity each day or to wear a fitness tracker that had a Web-based link to track activity and provide feedback for both exercise and diet. At this point, average weight loss was essentially the same in both groups. After 18 months of periodic measurements, improvements in diet, physical activity and body composition were comparable for the two groups. However, those who wore the fitness trackers lost less weight, on average, than the others. In the 24-month period, people wearing the trackers lost, on average, 7.7 pounds, while those who did not wear the devices dropped an average of 13 pounds.

Who may be affected

Adults who are overweight or obese. In the United States, more than 70 percent of people age 20 and older weigh more than is considered healthy for their height. Eating healthfully and being physically active are prime ways to manage weight. Industry estimates indicate that upward of 30 million Americans have wearable trackers. Some studies have shown that using such devices can boost weight-loss efforts, at least in the short term.

Caveats

Everyone in the fitness-tracker group used the same type of device (Body Media’s FIT Core); no other devices were tested. All participants were paid $100 for completing each of four periodic assessments.

Find this study

Sept. 20 issue of JAMA (jama.com).

Learn more

Information on weight and your health is available at nhlbi.nih.gov/health (click on “Aim for a Healthy Weight”). For more on losing weight, go to mayoclinic.org (search for “weight loss strategies”).

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals.