Fitness Trackers: Are They Worth It?

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association followed individuals over two years and revealed that people who wear fitness trackers don’t always lose weight. Half of the group was given fitness trackers and the other half was asked to self-report their diet and exercise. Both groups were equally active, but the people with the fitness trackers lost less weight.

The research might leave you scratching your head, especially if you received a fitness tracker this holiday season. To get to the bottom of technology and fitness, Your Health Matters surveyed health care providers who know a thing or two about fitness.

“Fitness trackers are effective motivational devices to help people improve their fitness level and to lose weight in the short term,” says Samuel Chan, M.D., Meritus Internal Medicine-Robinwood, suite 143. “But once people get use to them, the motivation fades over time and frustration can build over not meeting daily fitness goals.”

More scientific studies are needed to determine what fitness trackers can or cannot do says Dr. Chan, but he sees exercise improvement in some of his patients. “Most of my patients who wear fitness trackers have noticed an increase in their daily exercise and improvement in their fitness level,” says Dr. Chan.

Experts agree fitness trackers prove more effective in people who are already dedicated to tracking their fitness activities. So how do you determine if a fitness tracker is right for you?

Find your motivation. Let’s say you want to move more. Use your fitness tracker to determine your current status—and the goal of walking a mile at your lunch break five days a week. By tracking your steps or miles, walking at lunch soon becomes a daily habit.

Dip your toe in the water. Try using a free activity tracking smartphone app such as Moves or Argus for a few days. The Moves and Argus app records distance and steps for walking, cycling or running and Moves tracks calories. The apps always remain on so there’s no need to start and stop them.

Start small. Use a fitness tracker or app to become more aware of what you eat or how much you exercise. It’s not about the technology, but more about making lifestyle changes. Steer clear of data overload or trying to track too much information which can lead to burnout.

“The goal of any fitness device is awareness or to take those extra steps to get to 10,000,” says Teresa Dumpe, CRNP, with Meritus Internal Medicine-Robinwood, suite 150.

But, be wary of tracking calories burned. “You have to look at calories in, calories out and the type of calorie you’re consuming, like sugar and refined carbohydrates, and when you’re consuming the calories,” says Teresa.

“Ultimately, weight loss and better overall health is about making lifestyle changes,” says Dr. Chan. “A guided diet program, the right food choices, regular exercise and a lot of patience will get you there.”