There are those who swear by their “10,000 steps a day” to keep the pounds off and wear pedometers to make sure they hit their goal.
Well, a piece of research has shown that all those apps for weight loss may not be the dieting aid you were hoping for. In fact, you could lose more weight without them.
The fascinating finding comes from University of Pittsburgh scientists working at its Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center. They gathered almost 500 young, overweight men and women who wanted to lose weight, ranging in age from 18 to 35, and who were competent at using apps such as activity trackers.
For the first six months of the study the volunteers followed a straightforward, low-calorie diet designed to provide steady weight loss. They were urged to get active, aiming for at least 100 minutes of moderate activity each week.
By the end of six months, everyone had lost weight. And then the actual experiment began.
The scientists now divided their volunteers in half. One group was told to start logging their daily exercise sessions onto the study website.
The others were given a monitor, worn on the upper arm, that tracked their physical activity, step counts and totted up calorie expenditure.
“We were pretty confident that the volunteers in the group using the activity monitors would exercise more, monitor their calorie intake better, and lose more weight than the people in the self-monitoring group,” says John Jakicic, a professor in the department of health and physical activity at the University of Pittsburgh and the study’s lead author.
After 18 months – and two years after the beginning of the study – all the volunteers returned to the lab to repeat their measurements so that changes from baseline could be recorded.
Most participants were thinner than at the start of the study but, and it’s a big but, people who hadn’t worn activity monitors were, on average, about 13 pounds lighter than two years previously while those who wore the monitors had shed only eight pounds.
Surprisingly, the data from the monitors showed that people wearing the technology generally exercised less than those in the other group.
Dr Jakicic pondered that wearing a monitor could result in less motivation to move. It’s possible that when those wearing the trackers realised they wouldn’t reach their daily exercise goal, they simply gave up.
It seems the use of technology can have unintended consequences!