Question Sophia Education

Should individuals who want to lose weight consider wearing an activity/ fitness tracker?

Should nurses advising individuals who want to lose weight suggest that they consider wearing an activity/ fitness tracker to help them?

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Answer Expert #27285

The Science Editor for the Daily Telegraph reported recently ‘Fitness trackers do not promote weight loss’ (Knapton, 2016). Summarising the findings of a large study published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology (Finkelstein et al.,2016), Knapton (2016) stated that wearing exercise trackers and pedometers doesn’t increase physical activity enough to achieve weight loss, nor did cardiovascular fitness or blood pressure improve. Furthermore, 40% gave up using them after 6 months, and only 10% still wore the device after 12 months. This is interesting data given the popularity of wearable activity trackers, with more than 3 million being sold in Britain last year (Knapton, 2016). Given that information and advice offered by nurses must be supported by sound evidence (Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), 2015:7), what should nurses advise individuals thinking of using a fitness tracker to help them to lose weight? Nurses do have access to professional guidelines, which for weight loss, include those such as the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), (2014), but these generally can’t keep pace with the publication of new research, thus their practice recommendations may be superseded the most recent research studies. Nurses need to be able to exercise their judgement of the quality of research evidence, using critical appraisal skills, in order to determine if the research evidence is of sufficient quality to inform their own practice, and there are many helpful books and online guides aimed at supporting nurses to critique research (for example, Polit and Beck, 2013; Critical Skills Appraisal Programme, 2016). By applying critiquing skills effectively, nurses can determine the value of research, such as this study, in guiding their advice regarding the benefit of wearing a fitness tracker to help weight loss; in this instance, data from the randomised controlled trial (RCT) conducted by Finkelstein et al., (2016) does indeed support the findings that fitness trackers do not improve long term weight loss, and although having some limitations, the study is supported by additional high quality RCT data (Jakicic et. al., 2016).


Critical Skills Appraisal Programme 2016. Making sense of the evidence [online] available at accessed 6th October 2016
Finkelstein, E.A., Haaland, B.A., Bilger, M., Sahasranaman, A., Sloan, R.A., Nang, E.E.K. and Evenson, K.R., 2016. Effectiveness of activity trackers with and without incentives to increase physical activity (TRIPPA): a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

Jakicic, J.M., Davis, K.K., Rogers, R.J., King, W.C., Marcus, M.D., Helsel, D., Rickman, A.D., Wahed, A.S. and Belle, S.H., 2016. Effect of wearable technology combined with a lifestyle intervention on long-term weight loss: the IDEA randomized clinical trial. JAMA, 316(11), p.1161.
Knapton, S., 2016. Fitness Trackers ‘do not promote weight loss’. The Daily Telegraph, 5th October 2016, p 8.
National Institute for Care Excellence, 2014. Weight management: lifestyle services for overweight or obese adults. Public health guideline [PH53] [online] available at accessed 6th October 2016
Nursing and Midwifery Council, 2015. The Code: professional standards of practice and behaviour for nurses and midwives [online] available at accessed 8th October 2016
Polit, D.F. and Beck, C.T., 2013. Essentials of nursing research: Appraising evidence for nursing practice. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.