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Fitness trackers ‘don’t lead to weight loss’

Increased movement doesn’t result in major changes to health outcomes

Fitness trackers have little benefit when it comes to significant weight loss or reducing blood pressure or cholesterol, a study has found.

The research, published in the American Journal of Medicine, said while fitness trackers motivate people to move more, which can help with overall long-term health, increased movement rarely leads to major changes in health outcomes.

Lead author Ara Jo, a clinical assistant professor in the department of health services research, management and policy at the University of Florida, told TODAY wearable devices can remind people to stand up and move during long bouts of inactivity, but that is not enough to significantly change someone’s health.

The researchers looked at 550 published studies about fitness trackers and, of those, they focused on six randomised clinical trials, involving a total of 1,615 people, which also collected specific data on health. Four of the studies used a Fitbit, while the other two involved the activity app integrated into people’s phones.

Only one study found significant weight loss among participants who used wearable devices. None showed a significant reduction in cholesterol or blood pressure. The only study that looked at blood glucose levels, which are important in managing diabetes, showed some decrease for people using the fitness trackers.