FITNESS trackers heavily promoted as a tool for helping people keep in shape offer no useful weight-loss benefit, a study suggests.
The two-year study of 470 overweight or obese people between 18 and 35 by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh placed everyone on a low-fatdiet, told them to increase their physical activity and there were also group counselling sessions.
After six months, the group was randomly split in half. One group had their diet and activity monitored online and the other half used a fitness tracker (a BodyMedia Fit Core armband).
The results, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that the overweight or obese people using the fitness tracker lost less weight than those the other group.
Those with the fitness trackers lost 3.5kg on average, compared to those left to their own monitoring (5.9kg)
Both groups had improvements in body composition, diet, and physical activity and the differences were not statistically significant, so the authors said the reason for the varying weight loss between the groups warrants further study.
Lead author John Jakicic said in a press release that trackers “may give people somewhat of a false sense of security that they don’t pay attention to some of the key behaviours that they otherwise might to pay attention to. They are relying on the device or the technology a little bit too much and that may be why we saw a little bit less weight loss in that group.”
Researchers admitted there were limitations to the study, including that the trackers used were worn on the upper arm, whereas today’s trackers are worn on the wrist (the study was conducted between October 2010 and October 2012).