Fitness trackers are very popular today for people aspiring to lose weight and focus on their health. According to research, fitness trackers might have different effects on people wearing them and on those who are not. Fitness trackers therefore can cause confusion and motivation at the same time.
In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, 471 overweight people age 18 to 35 were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Both groups received diet advice, instructions to exercise, and group counseling sessions. After six months, one group was instructed to wear fitness trackers while the other group did not wear the device.
After a two-year period, the group who used fitness trackers lost 2.4 kg. less compared to the other group who tracked their fitness activity and progress using a website. The results showed that fitness trackers are not entirely beneficial after all when it comes to achieving certain fitness goals like weight loss.
The Psychological Effect Of Fitness Trackers
"We should not simply tell everyone to go and buy an activity monitor and that it will help them to lose weight," said John M. Jakicic, the study's lead author from the University of Pittsburgh Department Of Health And Physical Activity.
Weight loss is a mind-boggling process. A glance at the study data suggests that there was actually little difference in how much the two groups ate or exercised, but the results were different. "When it comes to the trackers, it's possible that people who use these devices get a false sense of security," Jakicic explained.
Counting calories is not a good way to motivate weight loss. Wearing tracker bands may look encouraging and healthy but in reality, it isn't. For Jakicic, trackers may seem helpful but they push people to buy and to increase their intake of high-calories food such as cakes and dairies.
Counting calories has also psychological effects. Counting every food intake may suggest bad decisions. Instead of focusing on quality, people tend to count quantity just to avoid weight gain, eventually losing focus on health.
Can Fitness Trackers Be A Motivation?
This doesn't mean that activity trackers "don't work," according to Gary Miller of Wake Forest University Health and Exercise Department in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who did not participate in the study.
"If (a wearable device) is what's going to get you to exercise then I think it's worthwhile, but if it's going to be a fashion statement or something to talk about it's not worthwhile," Miller told Reuters.
Fitness trackers indeed have different effects on every person. It might or might not work. The most important thing to remember though is that health is wealth, regardless of whether one uses the wearable device or not.