Want to lose weight? Get a Fitbit. UQAM study shows they work

·2 min read

Though the pandemic has cancelled his daily commute to work, Verdun resident Patrick Lavery still tries to get in 15,000 steps a day. "With the pandemic and working from home I was very sedentary," he said. "There were days I didn't leave the house at all and I put on a lot of weight, probably about 20 pounds."

So back in September, Lavery decided to take on a 100-day challenge to walk about 10 kilometres a day. He wears a fitness tracker on his wrist to count his steps and log his daily activity level.

"In the evening, I'll look at my watch and say, OK, this is how many steps I need to hit to reach my goal," Lavery said.

"I'll head out and get that goal."

It turns out Lavery may be on the right track, as a recent study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, shows Fitbits do help people lose weight.

People with the popular wearable fitness trackers sit less and are more active, the study found.

Mickaël Ringeval, a PhD student in management sciences at the Université du Québec à Montréal, is the lead author of the study.

Ringeval said to make wearing a Fitbit effective, it's important to set goals — for example 10,000 steps a day — and stick to them.

Ringeval said wearing the watch and setting a goal proved to be more efficient than receiving a reminder from a physician to stay active.

Ringeval's findings are based on a meta-analysis of 37 clinical trials from around the world, reviewing the activity level of some 4,000 adults from 2007 to the summer of 2019.

Mark Lennihan/Associated Press
Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

The study looked at Fitbits, since they are the most popular fitness trackers on the market.

The research also found that people with chronic illness benefited the most from these devices.

But the devices aren't a magic bullet for laziness, Ringeval warned, as people still have to be determined to reach that daily step goal.

As for Lavery, he said being able to keep track of his activity level is just the motivation he needed to lose 30 pounds in four months.

"It helps me stay on track and lets me quantify how I'm doing," he said. "I can see my results ever day."