Are activity trackers helping you lose weight long-term?

All your friends have activity trackers, but is it time for you to get one?

Activity trackers are everywhere and on everyone’s arms, wrists, or waists gauging the amount of movement we’re getting during the day. There’s a good number of us regularly sitting behind a desk everyday making it extremely difficult to move more and use up some calories.

If our lives have taken on a more sedentary lifestyle and we don’t move as much, will an activity tracker be the best route to go as a reminder of the importance of moving more? Will an activity tracker also help us to eat healthier and limit foods with empty calories?

A research study looked at over 400 obese (mainly) women for 2 years looking at the effectiveness of activity tracker’s influence on weight loss. These individuals were broken in to two groups and were given low calorie diets, more exercise, and group counseling session for the first 6 months of the study.

At the 6-month mark of the study, one group started to keep track of their diet and exercise the old fashioned way by adding up calories consumed and minutes of exercise in a web based diary. The other group in the study was given an activity tracker to wear on their upper arm to collect their exercise and movement data. This group manually tracked calories on the website where the activity tracker uploaded movement data in to the website data base. The main difference between the two groups was who was responsible for recording the data, the activity tracker or personally keep track.

These individuals were followed for two years, and both groups lost weight but those wearing the trackers lost, on average, eight pounds after 2 years. Those who did not wear the trackers lost about 5 pounds more totaling 13 pounds on average.

Many of us have lost weight for the short term, but keeping the weight off after you have bought new clothes is the hard part. It is interesting to see both groups at first lost the same amount of weight but the people wearing the activity trackers gained more back than the group not wearing the trackers. Those without trackers seemed better able to keep the weight off after the study was over.

With the holidays upon us, it seems as though activity trackers can help us stay on track for the amount of movement we get in a day, but it’s not a long term fix for keeping weight loss where we’d like it to be. It’s important to continue being aware of the nutrition and exercise we have daily which leads in to weekly, monthly, then yearly. It’s not easy to keep motivated but it’s necessary for healthy living.

Michigan State University Extension’s Health and Nutrition Institute has many programs to help individuals with living a healthy lifestyle long term. Experts from MSU Extension make it possible to keep communities motivated to live the type of lifestyle most strive.

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