Can Fitness Trackers Help You Reach Your Health Goals?

by | Oct 6, 2016 | General Health, Healthy lifestyle | 1 comment

fitness trackerYou’ve probably heard that sitting is the new smoking. Sit all day, and you’re at an increased risk of breast and colon cancer, have the highest rate of heart attacks, and have a higher risk of stroke, diabetes, bone loss, loss of muscle mass, and weight gain.

And because diseases of inflammation know no boundaries, they have a direct effect on your oral health, as well.

So maybe you’ve already gone out and bought yourself a fitness tracker to monitor your daily activity. Counting steps is a great way to tally the movement in your daily life. But if you were hoping to see that boost in activity translated to, say, a lower number on your bathroom scale, you might be disappointed.

According to a new study in JAMA, fitness trackers appear to miss the mark when it comes to helping you lose weight.

The study involved 471 participants divided into two groups. One calculated their activity manually. The other wore trackers that did the calculation automatically. After 24 months, those who wore the trackers lost less weight than the others – 7.7 pounds vs. 13 pounds.

Lest that seem discouraging, bear in mind that both groups still lost weight. More, the benefits of movement run much deeper than simple weight loss.

Activity trackers are now worn by one out of every six people, many who have experienced extraordinary weight loss and many who experienced other health benefits from moving more. Still, this JAMA study does bring up questions about why the group tracking manually was more successful than those with electronic trackers.

  • Are we are less engaged in actual change when it’s monitored passively?
  • Does seeing an increase in activity justify eating more?
  • Do we expect to see weight loss results from activity alone, without incorporating dietary or behavioral changes?

These questions and more are likely to be addressed in future research. Fitbits alone are currently enrolled in over 200 ongoing studies. But until the definitive answer is in, whether you wear a fitness tracking device or not, it’s largely about taking things into your own hands.

As Eric Chemi pointed out after wearing 10 activity trackers at one time and getting 10 different results, if you’re going to wear a tracking device, it’s probably best to pick one and use it for relative gains toward your health goals. But you don’t have to wear one to meet with success. Reaching the finish line, after all, starts with taking that first step – with movement.

Image by Israel.

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