The new battleground for the commercial fitness world is wearable technology; and this war is mainly being waged by technology firms vying for the cursory attention of the technology-conscious fitness buff. But, even though many people have grown dependent on these devices, a study is saying they may be akin to snake oil products.
The first study involved 470 overweight and obese people and lasted for 24 months. These people were between the ages of 18 and 24. In the first part of the study, the entire lot was made to consume a low-calorie diet and given an exercise plan. This went on for 6 months.
After the six months, half of the group was told to keep track of their exercise and diet, without supervision. The other group was issued with Fit Core—an electronic armband that tracks physical activity, sends it to a computer, and lets people track their diet.
When the results for the two groups were eventually compared, it was observed that the high-tech group lost less weight than those who did not have the technology on their side as they tried to lose weight and become healthier. The results were quite compelling, with the Fit Core group losing just 7.7 pounds in a period of two years, while the other group lost 13 pounds on average. The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
This technology, it turns out, makes you less motivated to work out and this makes it ineffective in helping you lose weight. It was preferable just to use a healthy diet and physical exercise. Apparently, this technology harbors complacency, which comes as a result of feeling like you are in control of your health simply because you can monitor every minor body statistic on the go.
A Different Study arrives at a Similar Conclusion
Published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, a different study also came to the conclusion that wearable technology made no noticeable improvements to health. This study involved 800 people aged between 21 and 65.
In the one-year study, however, there were four different groups. The control group had no tracker. The second group was issued with a Fitbit Zip device. The other two groups were given trackers and an incentive in form of money or a donation to charity for the first six months. Various health parameters were measured over the period.
What was surprising was that the group with the trackers had an increased level of physical activity, and yet, there was no noticeable improvement in health. The group was able to improve the time spent on aerobic activity by 16 minutes every week. But that was still not enough to help this group of individuals lose weight, improve their blood pressure, or better their cardiorespiratory fitness.
Cash rewards and offers for charity donations were also shown no to lead to any significant health improvements in the individuals. The final conclusion was that activity trackers, by their own, can do little to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
So, Is Wearable Technology All Hype?
No, it’s not. As the study results indicate, even those who used wearable technology lost weight. That means that using the technology still helped the participants become healthier. And that’s something, right? Especially if this technology is what it takes to help you work out and eat healthy in the first place.
Furthermore, other independent studies have shown that using wearable technology to complement a traditional weight loss plan resulted in improved weight loss and dietary behaviors. In particular, this technology was deemed critical in helping people maintain their healthy weight after losing weight the “traditional” way. This conclusion was established in a systematic review done on technology and its impact to weight loss by Sapna Batheja published in The FASEB Journal earlier in the year.
Technology is used by more and more weight loss programs, like the innovative clinically proven plan Nutrisystem, which offers a sophisticated mobile app to help you get the fitness results you want anywhere you are and at a low cost. So, don’t throw away your activity tracker just yet, it could hold the key to a more successful weight loss program. Just don’t expect technology to accomplish this on its own – it has its role in this fitness goal, and so does the traditional technology-free weight loss program. Besides, the wearable technology will also help you maintain your positive weight loss results as it will keep you informed of any slacks in your feeding or workout behavior.