Activity trackers not reliable for weight loss

Wearable devices that monitor physical activity are not reliable tools for weight loss, a new study has found.

The study specifically investigated whether regular use of commercially available activity trackers is effective for producing and sustaining weight loss.

The study followed 470 individuals between the ages of 18 and 35 with a body mass index between 25 and 39 at the start of the trial. Approximately 77 per cent of participants were women and 29 per cent were from minority communities.

According to the study, all participants were placed on low-calorie diets, prescribed increases in physical activity, and received group counselling sessions on health and nutrition.

They participated in weekly health counselling sessions for the initial six months and less frequent counselling for the last 18 months. Weight was assessed at six-month intervals throughout the 24-month trial.

At the conclusion of a 24-month trial, researchers observed that participants without physical activity trackers showed nearly twice the weight loss benefits at the end of the 24 months.

Participants who utilised wearable devices reported an average weight loss of 7.7 pounds, while those who took part only in health counselling reported an average loss of 13 pounds.

Through these observations, researchers concluded that devices that monitor and provide feedback on physical activity do not offer an advantage over standard weight loss approaches that include behavioural counselling on physical activity and diet.

“While usage of wearable devices is currently a popular method to track physical activity — steps taken per day or calories burned during a workout — our findings show that adding them to behavioural counselling weight loss that includes physical activity and reduced calorie intake does not improve weight loss or physical activity engagement,” said John Jakicic, researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, US.