To many, technology is indispensable for getting organized, staying informed and keeping in touch with friends and family--but can it also help you lose weight? The answer is a firm "it depends."
High-tech fitness monitors are becoming mainstays at the gym, even making a prominent appearance on the latest season of NBC's "The Biggest Loser". Although long-term research obviously doesn't exist yet for this new genre of weight-loss aids, they just might help you kick your fitness program into overdrive.
What the Research Says
Indeed, the research so far shows plenty of promise. In a study of nearly 200 overweight and obese adults, researchers at the University of South Carolina found that people who wore a fitness monitor and participated in a group weight-loss program lost about triple the weight of those who participated in the program without using a gadget.
"Continuous self-monitoring from wearable technology with real-time feedback ... combined with a group-based intervention, may yield optimal weight loss," concludes the study.
What the Gadgets Do
If you haven't seen these body monitors yet, here's the lowdown. The small devices measure stats like body temperature, perspiration, heart rate and walking and running steps to quantify all of your physical activity throughout the day. (No brand has all of these features, so comparison-shopping is a must.) Some have visual displays, and most connect to your computer or smartphone to give you a range of data. You can also connect the software with diet apps to track your calorie goals and create customized plans.
In case you were wondering, the device used in the study was the SenseWear by BodyMedia, which straps to the upper arm (Link and Core are the latest models from the brand). Yes, you need to wear it all day for optimal accuracy--and yes, people will ask about it when you wear sleeveless shirts. If the trade-off isn't worth it, you may be better off with the Nike Fuelband or Jawbone Up, which look like futuristic wristwatches, or the FitBit Zip, which clips inconspicuously to your pocket.
These body monitors may provide the information you need for weight-loss success, and could motivate you to take the stairs at work or walk around the block on your coffee break. However, they won't do the work for you--so don't spend your hard-earned money thinking you're purchasing weight-loss in a box.
The Key to Weight-Loss Success
The key to losing weight is, and always has been, eating fewer calories than you burn. You must create a 3,500-calorie deficit to lose one pound, so a daily deficit of 500 calories translates to a loss of one pound per week. The best way to accomplish this is by reducing food intake and moving your body more, both of which take dedication and effort.
That said, it can be difficult to know how many calories you're burning on your jog, or if that roll at dinner will push you over the edge of your goal. Thus, a fitness monitor could finally help you get over your weight-loss rut and reach your ideal size.
How to Fit Fitness into Your Workday
Nina Kate is a certified fitness nutrition specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). She also studied journalism at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and has contributed to numerous major publications as a freelance writer. Nina thrives on sharing nutrition and fitness knowledge to help readers lead healthy, active lives. Visit her wellness blog at BodyFlourish.com.