Are Commercially-Available Wearables Effective for Weight Control?

wearable-weightcontrol Interview with:
DJ McDonough, M.S.
Doctoral Dissertation Fellow
Ph.D. Candidate/Research Assistant
Physical Activity Epidemiology Laboratory
University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

DJ McDonough  What is the background for this study?

Response: This study used network meta-analysis to perform a pooled analysis on 31 randomized controlled trials examining what are the most effective intervention strategies for using commercially-available wearable fitness trackers (e.g., Fitbit, Apple Watch) or research-grade fitness trackers (e.g., pedometers, accelerometers) to promote weight loss and/or BMI reduction in those with overweight/obesity, including those with weight-associated chronic illnesses. What are the main findings? Did the type of device matter?

Response: We found that overall, commercially-available health fitness trackers and research-grade activity trackers were both very effective at promoting body weight and BMI reduction in those with overweight/obesity, including those with weight-associated chronic illnesses compared to control (no treatment) and traditional physical activity interventions (without the use of any health wearable devices).

More specifically, the commercially-available health wearable devices tended to be more effective by themselves whereas the research-oriented devices tended to be more effective when combined with other research strategies. We also found that interventions which were 12 weeks in duration or longer were the most effective for achieving these outcomes. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: While both commercial and research-oriented devices were effective for weight control, commercial wearables like the Fitbit are affordable, easily accessible, and based on our findings, require no other components to be effective (these are built-in to the devices, like goal-setting, activity reminders and rewards, social interaction, etc.). On the other hand, research-oriented devices are not as easy to come by for the general public and we found these to be most effective when researchers intervened in addition to their use (which the general public does not normally have access to). What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: We hope to see future research expand on these findings and identify what specific mechanisms within these devices are most beneficial/contribute most to increased daily physical activity and healthy weight management. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: We would like to thank for their interest in our research and we appreciate the work they are doing in helping to promote healthy weight throughout the U.S. and elsewhere! Stay active!

Research Conducted at:

University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, School of Kinesiology, Physical Activity Epidemiology Laboratory


McDonough DJ, Su X, Gao Z. Br J Sports Med Epub ahead of print: 15 March 2021. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2020-103594

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Last Updated on June 27, 2023 by weightcontrol