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If you walk through your local supermarket, chances are that you’ll spot someone with the unmistakable black band of a fitness tracker wrapped around their wrist. Fitness trackers aren’t just for professional athletes. They’re for anyone who’s interested in keeping tally of steps, stairs, miles, and to some extent calories burned. The growing affordability and popularity of fitness trackers has lead many to believe that when it comes to weight loss, they might just be the next big thing.

However, a recent study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh revealed that when it comes to losing weight, fitness trackers aren’t as effective as other methods.

The 24-month trial looked at individuals ages 18 to 35 with BMIs of 25 and 39 at the start of the trial. All the participants endured the first 6 months of the trial the same way. They all were placed on low-calorie diets, prescribed physical activity, and given weekly group counseling sessions. After the 6-month mark, the paths of the participants diverged. While one group maintained the group counseling sessions on a less frequent basis, the other received fitness trackers to monitor diet and physical activity. While both groups experience significant weight loss over the last 18 months of the trial, those who were in group counseling reported losing nearly twice as much weight as those who just used a fitness tracker.

Fitbit Charge HR

Now what the question is: Why? Why did the group counseling participants ostensibly lose more weight than the fitness tracker group? I’d venture to guess that the social component of group counseling pushed individuals to push themselves more so than any fitness tracker could. These individuals weren’t just sticking to their weight loss goals for themselves, they were sticking to them for the group.

Just as we know that exercising with someone else keeps you accountable, the same could be said for leading a healthy, nutritious lifestyle. That’s one of the reasons that groups like Weight Watchers or events like 5Ks are so popular–they give people the opportunity to bring their own private goals into the public sphere.

All of this is not to discount fitness trackers–they are useful pieces of equipment and can definitely help push individuals to exercise more often and more intensely–but when it comes to a fitness tracking device and good ol’ human interaction, good ol’ human interaction is guaranteed to yield greater results.

Dr. Peter McIlveen