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Your Fitness Tracker Won't Help You Lose Weight, But Who Cares?

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Photographed by Molly Cranna.
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that fitness trackers aren't exactly the key to a super-healthy lifestyle that they've been touted to be. It appears that using a fitness tracker does little to improve the weight-loss effects of a traditional diet-and-exercise routine — but that doesn't mean you should throw out your Fitbit.

For the study, researchers tracked 471 overweight or obese adults between the ages of 18 and 34 for two years. The participants were given a low-calorie diet and an exercise plan to follow, and were invited to attend group counselling sessions. Six months into the study, half of the group were given a Fit Core armband to use to track their progress, while the other half were told to continue keeping track on their own.

By the end of the two years, the group who simply dieted and exercised had lost an average of 13 pounds per person, while the group who used the tracker lost about seven pounds each. The researchers couldn't determine a clear reason why those who tracked their weight loss ultimately lost less, but they suggested that fitness trackers might give users an inflated sense of progress.

But before you toss your tracker, know this: Aside from weight loss, the study noted that both groups saw improvements in their overall fitness, diet, physical activity, and body composition. Which means that, while using a fitness tracker may not be guaranteed to give you a leg up, it doesn't seem to harm you in these important areas. So, if you're someone who gets motivated by tracking your healthy habits, there's no need to stop. A tracker can still have a pretty positive effect on your life — and in areas we'd argue are more important than weight loss, anyway.
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