Daily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by David Glance, Director of UWA Centre for Software Practice, University of Western Australia

The headlines say it all. From “Fitness trackers ‘don’t help weight loss’” through to claims that fitness trackers can “make users fatter” and that“That Fitness Tracker Might Actually Make Losing Weight Harder”.

These conclusions by the media came from the reporting of a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The article, titled “Effect of Wearable Technology Combined With a Lifestyle Intervention on Long-term Weight Loss The IDEA Randomized Clinical Trial” looked at whether wearing a fitness tracker had any effect on weight loss amongst young, obese, men and women over a 2 year period.

Before everyone abandons their Fitbits, Garmins or Apple Watches, it is not at all clear what can, in fact, be generalised from the study.

For a start, the authors report other studies that show that in the short term, wearing fitness trackers “result in modest improvements in weight loss when added to a behavioral intervention”.

The group of participants in this study were given the trackers at 6 months, at a time when both groups had lost all of the weight they were ever going to lose. Over the next 18 months, everyone put weight back on.

It is fair to say that everyone on the study had a raft of interventional support provided to them to lose weight. Both the tracker wearing group and the non-tracker wearing group (the control group) were being given behavioural counselling through group sessions and phone calls. Everyone also received text messages each week.

It is perhaps less surprising then that on top of all of the interventions, the addition of the fitness tracker made little difference. And talking of difference, another clarification is worth making here. By the end of the study, there was indeed a weight difference between the two groups. Essentially the group that wasn’t using the trackers put less weight back on compared to the group wearing the trackers. The difference after 2 years was 2.4 kg around 2.5% of their starting weight.

Whilst this change was statistically significant, a range of other measures were not. The two groups “did not differ significantly for fat mass, lean mass, percent body fat, bone mineral content, bone mineral density, or cardiorespiratory fitness“ nor did they differ in “physical activity and dietary intake”.

So in essence, whilst the weight change was different in the two groups, nothing else was, including the very things that make up the weight! The groups were essentially exercising, eating, and doing everything the same.

What this means is that for all intents and purposes, the two groups were identical and if this was indeed the case, why didn’t the fitness tracker make a difference?

Well, this study was done in 2010 and wrist-based fitness trackers didn’t really emerge until 2013. The study used the BodyMedia Fit tracker which is worn as an armband. As one technology reviewer commented about the device “One of the biggest drawbacks to the Fit is that it’s not particularly comfortable. “.

When the research participants were asked that question, 25% of them disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that “The armband was comfortable to wear”. Only 49% thought it was actually comfortable. Significant numbers also thought the device interfered with their job and social life. In short, this was not a group of people who were overjoyed and motivated about wearing the band and it is possible that this proved an added burden of self-control when people in that group wanted to exercise. However, even here, this didn’t have enough of an effect to show up a statistical difference in levels of activity between the groups.

This is not to say that given any other device, the results would have been any different. We simply can’t tell that from the study.

The possibly depressing results from this study were that despite significant behavioural intervention to assist in changing obese young people’s diet and exercise habits, they were all still obese after 2 years albeit ever so slightly fitter.

Fitness trackers can help in reducing weight loss in the short term. They can be a motivational tool for some people in increasing activity but they are not a long-term solution for this for most people. We do know that each year, the population as a whole has been getting heavier and that environmental factors have played a large part in this. Without addressing those drivers, all forms of dietary and activity interventions are going to struggle.

Authors: David Glance, Director of UWA Centre for Software Practice, University of Western Australia

Read more http://theconversation.com/no-fitness-trackers-do-not-make-you-fat-and-they-dont-make-losing-weight-harder-65842

Writers Wanted

Victoria and NSW are funding extra tutors to help struggling students. Here's what parents need to know about the schemes


The mystery of the blue flower: nature's rare colour owes its existence to bee vision


Curb population growth to tackle climate change: now that's a tough ask


The Conversation


Ray Hadley's interview with Scott Morrison

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ray.   HADLEY: I was just referring to this story from the Courier Mail, which you’ve probably caught up with today about t...

Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison - avatar Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison

Prime Minister's Remarks to Joint Party Room

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is great to be back in the party room, the joint party room. It’s great to have everybody back here. It’s great to officially welcome Garth who joins us. Welcome, Garth...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Tips to find the best plastic manufacturing supplier for your needs

Plastics are very much an important part of all of our lives, but they’re particularly valuable to a wide variety of industries that rely on their production for their operations. The industries, ...

News Co - avatar News Co

7 foolproof tips for bidding successfully at a property auction

Auctions can be beneficial for prospective buyers, as they are transparent and fair. If you reach the limit you are willing to pay, you can simply walk away. Another benefit of an auction is tha...

Dominique Grubisa - avatar Dominique Grubisa

Getting Ready to Code? These Popular and Easy Programming Languages Can Get You Started

According to HOLP (History Encyclopedia of Programing Languages), there are more than 8,000 programming languages, some dating as far back as the 18th century. Although there might be as many pr...

News Co - avatar News Co

News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion