Healthcare

Fitness trackers can help — if used correctly

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Wearable fitness devices has become a billion dollar industry.

Most of them count your steps and others have become more elaborate by measuring your sleep, heart rate, body weight, and more.

As a former athlete, my coaches probably wished they had these fancy gadgets circa 1998. The formula for training could have been built on what the body is capable of doing, not what your mind tells you it can or cannot do — this is extremely valuable for the elite athlete.

There’s a new study now from a team of researchers led by Dr. John Jakicic of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Health and Physical Activity suggesting that these trackers are ineffective for people wishing to lose weight, in fact they suggested them as having the opposite effect, by leading to less weight loss.

They studied 470 people ages 18 to 35 with BMIs that are classified as overweight for two years. For the dietary intervention, all participants were given a “low calorie” plan ranging from 1200 – 1800 calories per day depending on their body weight. Note: the scientists in the study have disclosed working for the Scientific Advisory Board in Weight Watchers International, which is fine, but what if the dietary component was flawed as well? It’s no easy task to accurately assess the participants over the course of two years.

I’ve been in private practice for over 10 years. One of the first recommendations I give to clients is to purchase a basic fitness tracker for gauging your overall activity levels. The idea here is to get an overall number because humans suffer from inactivity these days. The shock value over how inactive they are throughout the day — compared to the healthiest cultures in the world — allowed me to better explain the importance of circulation and how that assists the digestive tract in digesting and absorbing nutrients from food.

Macronutrients are hugely important when it comes to weight loss. Also, if you’re not eating enough of a macro, you could end up having issues with hormones like leptin. I understand the study allocated 20 – 30 percent of calories from fat, but the sources are what matter most.

When people take on a new diet plan, they almost inevitably increase their daily amount of activity. To flaw a modern day tool that can track the before and after is ludicrous in my opinion.

Stella Metsovas is a globally recognized clinical nutritionist and media health expert based in California. She is a specialist in Food Science and Human Nutrition, with over 15 years experience in the health and fitness industries, and 10 years in private practice.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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