Can wearable activity trackers really help people kick unhealthy habits blamed for growing global obesity rates?
BBC News approached again this morning the obesity problem focusing this time on the “rise in childhood obesity” which has left one in three children overweight. The King’s College London researchers add obesity rates among 11- to 15-year-olds are still rising and Public Health England said there is no room for complacency. The study found a steady rise in the proportion of overweight children in England in 1994-2003 but in the past decade it has remained at about 30%. Experts believe that being significantly overweight is responsible for a wide range of health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and infertility.
Sadly the number of obese people in the UK has more than trebled in the past 25 years. Obesity levels among children have also been rising during this period. One in three children in the UK is now overweight, while one in five is obese. The Overseas Development Institute’s “Future Diets” study found that in 2008, one in three adults was overweight or obese, a 23% rise from 1980. In the same time, obesity had spread faster in the developing world than richer countries. People are gaining weight because they’re eating more sugar, fat and bigger portions.
Doctors say we need to eat less and move more to maintain a healthy weight but getting us moving has always been an uphill battle. The gyms get crowded by the “New Year Resolution” people in January, only to get back to normal by spring. Many people just can’t stay motivated for long and few people are able to stick with a fitness routine for long and more than 50% of us return to their sedentary lifestyle.
So does technology stand a better chance? Can a wearable activity tracker help you lose weight?
Digital activity monitors or Wearable Activity Trackers as we call them nowadays, seem to offer a technological solution to solving both problems, eating too much and moving too little. They all work in a similar way, using a sensor to track movement, heart rate and body temperature. They nudge you to move when you sit too long and give you feedback on whether you’re meeting your goal. You can wear them as a bracelet or pin them to your belt or clothing. They can connect to websites where you can check your daily activity, log your calories and compete with other users. Some of the monitors can tell you how well you’ve slept, by tracking your moves at night.
Among the most popular brands are Fitbit, Jawbone UP and Garmin. They cost between £30 and £130, depending on the features. Fitbit wearable activity trackers are now sold in 30,000 shops across the world. Wearable activity trackers are easy to use and actively track progress towards goals.
The do-it-yourself monitoring will become very important in healthcare, both as a way for people to manage their health and get feedback from their doctors and even if they lose interest, they all say they’ve gained one lasting benefit, more awareness of how much to move and eat to stay healthy. Awareness helps us adopt good habits; over time, your daily life flow changes and these movements become more automatic. These actions can be mutually-reinforcing, in particular the more you move, the more you burn calories so that informs the food choices you make on a daily basis.
To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. Wearing an activity tracker will help increase your awareness of those numbers by showing you how many calories you burn during the day: during workouts, just walking around and even at rest. Many trackers also provide a food log to help you track what you eat, which is a proven tool for weight loss.
Because wearable activity trackers encourage you to move more, you’ll be moving more and as a result, burn more calories. That can help you lose weight and if you have a wearable that integrates with a food log on your phone, then you can monitor everything you eat as well, which is crucial for successful weight loss. Many of the wearables also come with an app that provides a food log, nutrition tips and daily motivation that can help you lose weight and make more healthy choices in general on a daily basis. To answer the question, yes, a Wearable Activity Tracker can help you to lose weight. See our previous article about Best Wearable Activity Trackers in 2015 and if still in doubt if you need one, see below a reminder of the benefits that little tracker brings.
- Track your weight loss or weight gain daily with an interactive app connected to your wearable activity tracker.
- Automatically charts your Body Mass Index (BMI) in addition to weight loss and gain.
- Keep track of calories consumed or points associated with a weight loss program.
- Receive encouragement from others who have the same goals.
- Keep an exercise log of when you exercised and the type of activity.
- Share your progress with friends and family with the help of social media integration.
- Compare your personal wearable activity tracker to public wearable activity trackers and adjust your goals.
Ultimately, in order to maximise the use of your fitness tracker, you’ll have to connect it with some of the best fitness apps in 2015