Activity tracker may not help lose weight, says study

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activity tracker

An activity tracker is a device to monitor and track body fitness, such as distance walked, calorie consumption, and in some cases heartbeat and sleep quality.

Although activity trackers become popular nowadays, it is unknown if they can improve weight loss.

In a recent study, researchers tried to answer the question. They found that compared with a standard behavioral weight loss intervention (standard intervention), an activity trackers equipped weight loss intervention (enhanced intervention) doesn’t result in greater weight loss. The finding is published in JAMA.

Researchers from University of Pittsburgh, Bastyr University, and Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania conducted the study.

They recruited 471 adults between October 2010 and October 2012 (24 months). Participants were assigned to two groups: one received a standard weight loss intervention, and the other received a technology-enhanced weight loss intervention.

Both interventions included a low-calorie diet, regular physical activity, group counseling sessions, and telephone counseling sessions.

At 6 months, people in the standard intervention group used a website to self-monitor diet and physical activity, whereas people in the enhanced intervention group used an activity tracker to monitor diet and physical activity.

Researchers found that at the end of the program, the mean weight loss in the enhanced intervention group (tracker users) was 3.5 kg (from 96.3 to 92.8 kg), whereas the mean weight loss in the standard intervention group (non-tracker users) was 5.9 kg (from 95.2 to 89.3 kg).

Both groups had obvious improvements in fitness, physical activity, and diet.

Researchers suggest that among young adults with a BMI 25 – 40, the addition of activity tracker to a standard weight loss intervention results in less weight loss over 24 months.

Smart devices that monitor and provide feedback on physical activity might not offer an advantage over standard weight loss approaches.


Citation: Jakicic JM, et al. (2016). Effect of Wearable Technology Combined With a Lifestyle Intervention on Long-term Weight Loss The IDEA Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA, 316: 1161-1171. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.12858.
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