Apple Watch is a motivational fitness tracker, but experts say it won't make you lose weight

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While the Apple Watch is one of the most popular fitness trackers on the market, Apple has always been on tiptoe around the device’s usefulness as a weight loss tool. A new report from the Washington Post explores recent research that indicates that wearing a fitness tracker like the Apple Watch “doesn’t necessarily give people the motivation to change their behavior.”

Can the Apple Watch make you lose weight? Experts weigh

The report describes several different researches on the impact of fitness trackers on motivation, physical activity, and changes in things like weight and blood pressure. It refers to a study that was published in 2016, focused on Fitbit. This study found that Fitbit users “maintained their physical activity a little better than a control group without them”, but after one year, “it was not enough to produce changes in weight or blood pressure. “.

John Jakicic, who studies obesity and weight regulation at the University of Kansas, the Washington Post that products like the Apple Watch operate on the assumption that “if you give people information, they will do something to change their behavior.” In reality, this is not the case over longer periods.

“When we give people devices, it doesn’t usually change their behavior,” he says. “And if so, he changes it for a very short period of time – maybe around 2-3 months, maybe a bit longer – before the thing on your wrist ends up in a drawer. or that you just stop paying attention to it.”

Jakicic helped lead one of the largest controlled studies of tracker technology, published in 2016 by the University of Pittsburgh. It found that dieting adults who wore a generic activity tracker for 18 months lost less — yes, less — weight than those who didn’t. People who wore the devices also generally moved less.

Another theory from the report is that “the simple act of measuring your body could change the psychological experience of being active.”

A study 2016 by Jordan Etkin of Duke University found that the measure can undermine the “intrinsic motivation” of activities like going for a walk, making it feel more like work and diminishing continued engagement in the activity. “They can’t motivate you,” Etkin says.

We still don’t understand how they affect people in different ways. Some people with trackers energize themselves by competing with friends and family members to move the most. But for others, having their watch signal that they’ve had a lazy day can contribute to self-sabotage. A study 2017 of teens found stalkers negatively added to peer pressure and demoralizing.

Apple Watch Calories Burned

Matt Buman of Arizona State University is also quoted in the report:

Gadgets alone “don’t provide the extra support needed for sustainable, long-term behavior change – things like social support or goal setting, demonstration of behaviors by other people like you, and planning of shares”.

Gary Foster, scientific director of WeightWatchers, said about 40% of its members use fitness trackers for exercise data. The company, however, did not see a link between this use and the weight loss outcome.

What this may say, Foster told me, is that wearing a tracker makes it easier to work with staying on top of your exercise.

But a fitness gadget still can’t automate what Foster considers the most important piece of weight loss data: what you eat.

Bottom line, Foster says, “Tracking your activity will have little to no effect without this surround sound support on what to do with that information.”

In response to this story, Apple told the Washington Post that it “doesn’t track weight loss research because that’s not the focus of the Apple Watch.” However, he cited a study 2018 which found that people rewarded for meeting certain goals with their Apple Watch “had an average increase of 34% in tracked activity days per month, and this persisted after the program ended.”

Taking 9to5Mac

This story of the Washington Post does a good job of bringing together several different perspectives and studies in this area, but clearly we need more research on these topics. Apple Watch has been on the market since 2015, but that’s not very long by academic and medical research standards.

Physical condition is also only one factor in a person’s overall health. Apple Watch’s primary focus is on fitness tracking, which means it’s not the only reason a person’s health may improve or deteriorate over time. Apple’s Health app aims to aggregate a holistic view of your health, bringing data on the many other factors that contribute to your health other than fitness.

That said, I have several issues with the way the Apple Watch approaches fitness tracking. I think the focus on calories, in particular, should change. Research has already proven that these types of calorie estimates are grossly inaccurate and misleading.

The Apple Watch also doesn’t have built-in “rest day” or “prep” features. In my personal experience, this oversight is one of the biggest contributors to giving up on fitness goals. If you’ve closed your rings for 7 consecutive days, the Apple Watch should be smart enough to suggest you take a recovery day. Instead, it forces you to continue without any context.

The most important thing, however, is the fact that Apple hasn’t made any changes to the ring-based system since 2015. The system doesn’t need to be completely scrapped, but there are ways to redesign some aspects of the system. After all, it’s been almost a decade since the Apple Watch was first unveiled.

FTC: We use revenue-generating automatic affiliate links. More.

Check out 9to5Mac on YouTube for more Apple news:

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