Health desk- Wearing an activity device that counts how many steps you have taken does not appear to improve the chances of losing weight, researchers said.
According to a BBC report a two-year long study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) included nearly 500 overweight volunteers who were asked to diet and take more exercise.
Half were given a fitness tracker to help them keep tabs. This group had lost less weight than the other one by the end of the trial.
The study authors say this does not mean people should ditch the technology altogether, but neither should they put too much faith in them, at least as a slimming aid.
Despite the popularity of activity trackers, there have been very few studies to see what actual impact they have on weight and fitness levels.
The University of Pittsburgh research is one of the first randomised trials to gather such evidence.
The investigators found, the volunteers who wore the fitness trackers had lost, on average, about 3.6kgs. In comparison, the control group that were not given these devices lost about 5.9kgs.
There are many possible explanations for this surprising finding but, as yet, no proof, the authors say.
“People have a tendency to use gadgets like these for a while and then lose interest with time as the novelty wears off. And we did see a drop off in the usage data as the study went on,” lead researcher Dr John Jakicic said.
Perhaps people who use fitness trackers became fixated on exercise goals and forgot to follow the diet advice, Jakicic suggested.
“You might think to yourself, ‘I’m being so active I can eat a cupcake now,'” he said.
He said he would like to explore if certain people were more likely than others to benefit from using the technology.
For example, a person who was very goal-driven might find tracking their exercise regime very motivating. – but others might just find it depressing.
“It might be very discouraging if you can see that you are not hitting your target all the time,” he said.
He acknowledged that technology had moved on since the study began, but he did not think that would alter the findings.
“What these devices tell us and how we use the information has not changed,” he said.