Fitness trackers can help you lose weight, study finds

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

In a new study, researchers found that wearable fitness trackers and step counters help people who are overweight/obese and/or who have weight-related health conditions to shed pounds.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Minnesota.

More than 1.9 billion adults around the world are overweight (BMI of at least 25) and another 600 million are obese (BMI of at least 30).

Health conditions linked to excess weight are responsible for around 70% of deaths and 85% of healthcare costs in the US alone every year.

Physical inactivity makes it harder to lose weight, but only about 5% of US adults meet recommended physical activity levels.

Fitness trackers and step counters seem to motivate users to meet their physical activity goals.

In the study, the team reviewed the results of 31 relevant clinical trials and pooled the data. The trials were published between 2007 and 2020 and involved a total of 2268 people.

The trials looked at the impact of commercially available wearable fitness trackers and step counters (pedometers) and accelerometers on weight loss and BMI reduction in people who were overweight/obese and with weight-related health conditions.

These conditions included various cancers, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol and sleep apnea.

The trackers included the Fitbit, SenseWear Armband, Jawbone, Polar smartwatches, Samsung Charm, FitMeter and Withings Pulse as well as various wearable motion sensors.

The intervention periods ranged from 4 to 52 weeks and required participants to set and meet goals based on daily steps and/or to reach the recommended weekly minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (usually brisk walking).

The team found all types of wearable devices helped their users lose weight and reduce their BMI, the pooled data analysis showed. Interventions lasting at least 12 weeks seemed to produce the best results.

The research-grade step counters/accelerometers by themselves resulted in the most weight loss (average of 4.4 kg), while the commercial fitness trackers by themselves produced an average loss of nearly 3 kg (2.76 kg).

Both the fitness trackers and step counters/accelerometers by themselves resulted in an average reduction in BMI of around 2.

But step counters/accelerometers combined with components, such as counseling or dietary changes, achieved the largest average BMI reduction (3.4).

The team says commercial wearable fitness trackers are a practical option for people who are overweight/obese and who have weight-related conditions.

They allow users to set and track physical activity and health-related goals and provide constant reminders to get up and move to achieve these goals, which promotes self-monitoring and self-regulation.

The study is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. One author of the study is Daniel J McDonough.

Copyright © 2021 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.