Wearable devices that monitor physical activity - steps taken per day or calories burned during a workout - are not reliable tools for weight loss.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh in the US claim that participants without these trackers showed nearly twice the weight loss benefits at the end of the 24 months.
The study specifically investigated whether regular use of commercially available activity trackers is effective for producing and sustaining weight loss.
At the conclusion of a 24-month trial, researchers observed that usage of a wearable device in combination with a behavioral weight loss program resulted in less weight loss when compared to those receiving only the behavioral weight loss program.
Participants without physical activity trackers showed nearly twice the weight loss benefits at the end of the 24 months, researchers said.
Those who utilized wearable devices reported an average weight loss of 3.5 kg, while those who partook only in health counseling reported an average loss of 5.9 kg.
Through these observations, researchers concluded that devices that monitor and provide feedback on physical activity do not offer an advantage over standard weight loss approaches that include behavioral counseling on physical activity and diet.
Thus, while these devices allow for ease of tracking of physical activity along with feedback and encouragement, they may not enhance adherence to the tenets of a healthy lifestyle, which is the most important aspect of any weight loss regiment.
"While usage of wearable devices is currently a popular method to track physical activity, our findings show that adding them to behavioral counseling are weight loss that includes physical activity and reduced calorie intake does not improve weight loss or physical activity engagement," said lead researcher John Jakicic from Pittsburgh.
"Therefore, within this context, these devices should not be relied upon as tools for weight management in place of effective behavioral counseling for physical activity and diet," said Jakicic.
The study followed 470 individuals between the ages of 18 and 35 with a body mass index between 25 and 39 at the start of the trial. About 77 percent of participants were women and 29 per cent were from minority communities.
All participants were placed on low-calorie diets, prescribed increases in physical activity and received group-counseling sessions on health and nutrition.
They participated in weekly health-counseling sessions for the initial six months and less frequent counseling for the last 18 months. Weight was assessed at six-month intervals throughout the 24-month trial.
The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
(With agency inputs)