Study: Wearables don't lead to more weight loss

For weight loss, activity trackers aren’t necessarily a magic panacea, according to new research from the University of Pittsburgh. In fact, study participants who used trackers lost less weight than those who did not.

That doesn’t mean the devices don’t work--they were helpful for some participants, lead author John M. Jakicic, of the University of Pittsburgh department of health and physical activity, told Reuters.

“There is so much more that we need to learn about how these devices lead to behavior change,” he said.

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The study enrolled 470 people ages 18 to 35 with a body mass index between 25 and 40. All were placed on a low-calorie diet, prescribed 100 to 300 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous exercise and had group counseling sessions. At six months, they were randomized into two groups, one that used a multisensor device worn on the upper arm to track activity and one that did not.

During months seven to 24, participants were sent weekly text messages and received brief phone calls once a month. Both groups reported their food intake on a website. They were weighed every six months, according to the research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In the end, the mean weight loss was 7.7 pounds for the group using wearables and 13 pounds for the group that did not. The authors also noted that the weight loss participants had achieved by six months was not fully sustained long term. Both groups had similarly significant improvements in body composition, fitness, physical activity and diet.

Meanwhile, online training has been found to help participants stem their intake of junk food and make better eating decisions, according to research from Drexel University and elsewhere. An app and a computer game are in the works based on that study.