When fitness trackers first hit the market, they promised to help us lose weight, get fitter, and stay on track with our health goals.
But now the science has caught up with the marketing spiel. And it turns out that researchers haven’t found any proof that wearable activity devices do actually aid weight loss.
Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the two-year study asked around 500 overweight people to stick to a diet and do more exercise.
Half the group were told to measure their activity with a tracker.
Interestingly, the group wearing the fitness trackers actually lost less weight than the people who didn’t track their physical activity.
So what does this mean?
Researchers aren’t saying fitness trackers are a total waste of money. But they do suggest that people shouldn’t rely on trackers to help them lose weight.
And that’s an important message to heed, given how expensive some wearable devices are.
Other health professionals have come out with similar recommendations.
Take Dr Mitesh Patel who is Assisant Professor of Medicine and Healthcare Management at the University of Pennsylvania. In an ABC article, he said the people who get the most from fitness trackers are those who are already fit. And at the very least, those who are already “motivated and engaged in their health.”
"Those individuals tend to be able to take this data and literally run with it," he said.
"Whereas the people who have chronic conditions or are obese or have diabetes, for those folks giving a device is often not enough."
Are fitness trackers worth the money?
If you already own a fitness tracker or are thinking of buying one, there are some benefits. For instance, studies have shown that if you want to make a change, monitoring your behaviour is key. It will boost your odds of achieving your goal.
It can also be very helpful to see whether you’re doing as much exercise as you believe – and are as healthy as you feel.
Just be aware that a fitness tracker can’t make you lose weight. That comes from good nutrition, exercise, and a healthy mindset. Something a dietician or nutritionist can help with.