TUESDAY, July 26, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Your fitness tracker, pedometer or smartwatch can motivate you to exercise more and lose weight, according to Australian researchers.
In a big research reviewinvestigators found that tracking your activity could trick you into walking up to 40 more minutes per day (about 1,800 more steps). And those extra steps could translate to losing more than two pounds in five months.
“In the mainstream media, there can be a lot of skepticism about wearable activity trackers, for example if they make a difference and if they even have negative impacts, like making people feel guilty,” the company said. lead researcher Carol Maher. She is Professor of Population and Digital Health at the University of South Australia, Adelaide.
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“Our review found no evidence of negative impacts from wearable activity trackers,” Maher said.
Devices are big business: Between 2014 and 2020, the number of trackers sold worldwide increased by nearly 1,500%. In 2020 alone, nearly $3 billion was spent on these products.
In the new study, which Maher said was not paid for by any fitness equipment manufacturer, his team found trackers have a significant effect on the amount of physical exercise and a lesser benefit for fitness and weight loss.
“There were also clear patterns of change in other physiological outcomes, such as blood pressure and cholesterol,” she said. “The size of the benefits was sufficient to conclude that they are clinically significant.”
To determine the value of fitness trackers, Maher’s team looked at nearly 400 published studies, which included about 164,000 people.
Studies have shown that fitness trackers not only encourage exercise and weight loss, but can also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes and other health conditions.
“Wearables are a convenient and inexpensive tool to boost your daily activity and achieve slight weight loss,” Maher said.
While the reported 2-pound weight loss may seem insignificant, she said it’s important to remember that these weren’t weight loss studies, but ones that focused on physical activity.
“A weight reduction of 2 pounds over three to six months, which was the typical duration of the studies included in the review, is significant from a population health perspective, offsetting approximately two to three years of weight loss. that we tend to see in the general population,” Maher said.
David Conroy, professor of kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University at University Park, reviewed the results.
He said the benefits seen in this study weren’t just based on fitness trackers, but also on behavioral changes.
“This means the effects are likely overestimates of the effect wearable activity trackers have on behavior and health outcomes on their own,” Conroy said. He added that the study doesn’t say how long it takes to get the benefits the researchers found or how long they last.
“Ideally, wearable activity trackers can be transitional tools that people use to facilitate a lasting lifestyle change that doesn’t require a long-term commitment to wearing the devices,” he said. “At this point, we know little about the timing or permanence of the effects.”
Conroy said it’s unclear how trackers help users achieve beneficial results, but he offered some theories.
Trackers can provide feedback to help people track their progress towards activity goals and can remind wearers of them. Many have companion mobile apps that incorporate a variety of behavior change techniques. These techniques can also help promote behavior change, Conroy said.
“Wearable activity trackers can be useful in promoting physical activity, but we need to be realistic about our expectations of these devices,” he suggested. “Trackers are just tools – they can be an important part of an evidence-based behavior change program, but won’t do the hard work of changing behavior for a person.”
Increasing your physical activity always requires a desire to be active, meaningful incentives to be active, and an effort to translate best intentions into action, Conroy said.
“Ideally, trackers can help consumers develop lifestyles that make it easier to incorporate physical activity into daily life, but that won’t happen with a tracker alone,” he said. “Lasting increases in physical activity are more likely if the tracker is part of a thoughtful, evidence-based approach rooted in behavioral science.”
The study was published online July 26 in the journal Digital Health The Lancet.
There’s more on fitness at US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: Carol Maher, PhD, professor, population and digital health, University of South Australia, Adelaide; David Conroy, PhD, Professor, Kinesiology and Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University, University Park; Digital Health The Lancetonline, July 26, 2022