Weight loss, wearable tech and your ideas

Thanks for all your great responses about why wearable tech doesn’t equal weight loss. Part 1 is the original post and your answers are included in Part 2.

Part 1

You have heard it before, exercise does not equal weight loss, but there is a new finding in exercise and weight loss.

A two-year study, of almost 500 adults, between the ages of 18-35 revealed some interesting results. The study was conducted for two years (a long time for a weight loss study) and all participants were on a reduced calorie diet, encouraged to increase their activity and received group and individual support, but there was one factor that made the difference.

Six months into the study 50% of participants were given wearable fitness devices to monitor their activity and to provide feedback on their progress.

The results.

One group lost, on average, 7.7 pounds.

One group lost, on average, 13 pounds, almost double.

Any guesses as to which group lost more weight?

The group that was assigned a fitness tracker lost significantly less weight than the group that didn’t wear or track activity.

Why do you think that would be the result?

I can think of many reasons, but I want to hear from you. Why do think fitness trackers result in less weight loss?

Let me know and I will share some of yours (anonymously) and my ideas about why fitness trackers did not offer an advantage for weight loss.

 

Part 2

Thanks for all the great responses.

We are all in agreement that knowing and doing are not the same. Most of you thought that wearable tech encouraged people to move more during the day. However, after reaching your goal, the motivation stopped. Wearable tech doesn’t encourage higher intensity activity, another factor in weight management. Moving more is healthier, but it doesn’t equal weight loss. Almost everyone thought that rewarding your good habits with high-fat snacks was another reason for the reduced weight loss.

Here are your responses to why technology ≠ weight loss.

R says,

“I figure the Fitbit crowd fell down because they too often rewarded themselves for a 10,000-step day with a nice bowl of ice cream. Certainly, I’m guilty of topping up long-ride days with 1,000 calories of anything that isn’t locked down….”

T says,

“- if they followed the tracker according to their planned workout or how many steps they should take in a day, one possiblity is maybe the tracker was not completely accurate. Possibly underestimating the amount of activity actually done, in turn “shorting” the participant exercise time or the recommended steps to take daily. The participants, thinking they were doing all the physically activity needed, were actually doing less than they should. Then would not be motivitated to do anymore… “I’ve done all my steps according to my tracker, that’s all i need to do!”.

– if they knew how much exercise they were doing, they may take the attitude of “I worked hard, and burned XXX calories, so I can reward myself!” So it may have triggered taking in more calories after activity with a treat.

– if they paid too much attention to the tracker, and in turn didn’t push themsleves hard enough in the physical activity. they only did the effort that the tracker told them to do.

– it was purely a distraction from the workout, if it was constantly being checked or looked at, taking away from the activity effort. Also, if music was being played, they would have to stop exercising if they decided to change songs or playlists.

– wearable technology is not motivating! At least for not a very long time, for most people that I know. That’s why having a coach is best :)”

L says,

“I find this really interesting. Since I got my Fitbit last June, I have lost 8 pounds and I think it has really given me a good idea of how many calories I need to eat, as well as how FEW calories I burn when I exercise! Plus, it makes me walk around the office a lot more to try to get in my 10,000 steps per day (that sedentary athlete note that you sent out last year was very good).”

M says,

“Interesting! Maybe the tracker made them more aware of whether or not they met a fixed goal, and they snacked to feel better when they felt they had ‘failed.’
Perhaps people not on the tracker could feel good about at least getting some exercise done–sort of in line with what you’ve said–better to do something than nothing at all. Whereas the parties with the fitness band wouldn’t have that leeway–they either met the goal or they didn’t.
Hmmm…

Or they were successful, and thought they could reward themselves! LOL.”

C says,

“In my experience, I am usually surprised by how many steps I’ve done in a day when I look at my phone or Apple Watch. (For example 16,937 steps on holidays felt like nothing. And I was on a tram for a large part of the day!)

I think if I was aiming to lose weight, I’d likely just stop at a certain number of steps and say: “Done!! Bring on the Ice Cream!”

I think if you only work out or walk to record or post your stats, you are doing it for the wrong reasons, and the time wasted fiddling with the technology/devices could be better spent just getting out for a walk.”

S says,

My belief is that people focus on what the tracker tells them This leads to a linear type workout. Never too much, never too little. Gives them an excuse to do only what the tracker says and we humans always look for an easy way out. You want to be all over the map as humans we were designed for fight or flight…
One minute calm next fearing for our life”

P says,

“Interesting!
Did they increase their activity with the tracker?
They started focusing more on fitness and not tracking their food intake
They started rewarding their increased fitness activity with extra food, Like cake😄
They started marathon training. Everyone gains weight then!! 😂”

V says,

“Yay! Never wear a fit tracker.

Might be that people only are focused on getting x amount of miles/steps per day and don’t consider that maybe they can stand more, walk more and take stairs rather than elevators! My pet peeve – able bodied people that take the elevator for one or 2 floors, especially to go DOWN. Fitness is not about scheduled exercise only!”

M says,

“I think it is because after documenting a hard workout and calorie expenditure, they feel the “justification” for eating more afterwards to “catch up”. The recognition of burning off all those calories “justifies” the calorie rich energy bar or protein drink.”

P says, 

“I have a Fitbit, but no longer wear it. I think initially, it motivated me to make sure I got in at least 10,000 steps, but I really do that anyway, (I have a very energetic dog!). But, they don’t really motivate a person to change their lifestyle. Maybe people who wear them THINK they are doing something for themselves, (as they walk into McDonalds!), but the motivation soon wears off as it’s not really a habit changer.”

Wearable tech is one tool. It may help with your motivation or accountability, but in my experience nothing beats having an actual human coach ask what and how you are doing. I agree that we often eat more calories than we burn, and all technology overestimates the number of calories burned, while it is so easy to eat just a bit more than we need for recovery. I also know I have been guilty of ignoring my data when I don’t like the results, like it’s 2:00 PM and it says I have reached my calorie intake for the day. I can easily ignore that kind of info.

Rewarding myself during a big (gadget free) ride!

For full disclosure, I have worn and used a Fitbit, MIO, Polar Heart Rate monitor, Strava, Map My Run and more. I find the data interesting, but it is not what makes the workout better or harder. I prefer to enjoy my workouts distraction free, without the gadgets. 

Change your mind, change your health,

Shayla

 

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