Study questions benefit of fitness trackers

New study on fitness trackers

MINNEAPOLIS - When it comes to losing weight, fitness trackers may not prove as effective as old-fashioned accountability and support.
A new study conducted by the University of Pittsburg found that young adults who relied on more traditional weight intervention lost more weight than those who had a fitness tracker to monitor their progress.
Fitness trackers are everywhere thanks to more and more wearable tech, but that doesn't mean they're always on hand.
"I have a fitbit. I'm clearly not wearing it," said Randi Skillings, pointing to her bare wrist. "I wear it for about two weeks, do really well, track it, it runs out of battery and I never charge it and pick it up two months later."
That same type of inconsistency might help explain a new study by the University of Pittsburg. Researchers asked 470 young adults to exercise more while they began a low calorie diet. Six months into the study, half were given fitness trackers to monitor their progress. They lost an average of 7.7 pounds over two years with the help of the trackers. The other half of the group lost even more weight, 13 pounds, without the trackers.
"If your question is, 'Is it better to use a tracking device or not?' this study doesn't answer that," said Dr. Charles Billington, Director of Adult Weight Management for the Minnesota VA Hospital and the University of Minnesota.
Dr. Billington says it's important to point out that everyone in the study received support through a weight management program. The half who did not have fitness trackers were still expected to self report their progress and interact with experts to stay on track.
"So it's really comparison between this tracking system, which involved coaches, versus the fitness trackers," Billington said.
He says fitness trackers can still play an important role in creating healthy habits, but that they may lead to overconfidence.
"If people have a good day, activity wise, they feel like they can reward themselves with a little more calories and maybe that's the thing we should be thinking more about," Dr. Billington said.
In that case a good friend, or coach, can be just as crucial as a fitbit.


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