Activity trackers may actually hinder weight loss, study says

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Millions of people walk around wearing fitness monitors, but new research suggests they may do nothing to keep us fit.

A new study sort of defies what you’d think would be weight loss common sense. It suggests wearing a fitness tracker to tally the number of steps you take in a day doesn’t necessarily mean the numbers on the scale will come down.

“It was a little bit surprising,” Dr. John Jakicic said.

Jakicic and his colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh recruited more than 400 overweight and obese young adults. They all went on a low-calorie diet, exercised, and had counseling and support.

The researchers gave half activity monitors — worn on the upper arm — that measured energy expenditure. The theory was the devices would lead to greater weight loss.

The strategy didn’t work.

“It’s possible that people started to rely on these technologies, these wearable technologies a little bit more than they should have at the expense of actually paying better attention to their diet, their physical activity,” Jakicic said.

In other words: Achieving a fitness goal is not an excuse for over-indulging at meal time.

To be fair, both groups lost weight during the two-year study period. But those who did not rely on the fitness trackers lost an average of five additional pounds.

The research is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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