So, fitness trackers make you fatter? OK, so I was a little cheeky with the title, but as you read on you will understand what I am getting at. The main purpose of this article is to understand how the latest scientific evidence further explains the complex nature of our relationships with weight loss so that we as health professionals can in turn understand our clients more.

So back to my title. Do fitness trackers make you fatter? Really? Let me explain…

Fitness trackers are booming. In Britain, it is expected that 10 million will be in use before the end of the year according to the research company CCS Insight. Wearable health monitors are all the rage, so millions of us are measuring how many steps we take each day using a number of methods from purpose built step counters to apps on iPhones. Surely this technological advance will help people to understand their activity levels and therefore help them in their fight to lose weight? I would forgive you thinking that, but the truth may surprise you.

Scientists have concluded that wearing a fitness tracker does not improve the chances of losing weight and may even make some people gain weight. How can this be possible? A study by the University of Pittsburgh followed almost 500 young adults who were undergoing counselling because of their weight. Half were treated using a normal weight-loss intervention, which included diet and exercise advice. The other half had the same plan but they also had a commercially available fitness tracker, in the hope that it would improve their performance. In fact they did worse.

After two years the people with trackers had lost an average of 3.5 kg, whilst those without trackers had lost 5.9 kg. How could this be? Theorise include those wearing the trackers relied too much on the devices. Alternatively, after counting their steps, they may have rewarded themselves with treats. Or maybe on seeing their results they were too demoralised to keep exercising. This really surprised the scientists who had expected the opposite to be true.

Maybe the results on this test group were influenced by the fact that they were already being treated for being over-weight, but never the less it provides an eye-opening insight into the complex issues that surround weight loss for many people.

So what can we as fitness professionals take from this? For me, counting steps can be an important part of a weight loss program, but not in isolation. It is too simplistic for people to rely on tracker and think “damn I didn’t achieve my target today”. What is needed is more support and questions, such as “why did you not achieve your target?”, “what is happening in your life” and importantly “how can we improve things?”. So we shouldn’t be put off step counting, but we should understand that as with any weight-loss program, one size does not fit all. We need to know our clients to understand what makes them tick so we can work with them to find what works for them. This is why as part of the PilatesEVO educations I teach about how we can use methods such as NLP to understand and connect with our clients in a way that many trainers never can. As with anything, it is not enough to have a insular, one-dimensional approach. Be it weight loss, weight gain, fitness, or wellness, I teach that we must consider physical, psychological and spiritual elements as if we do not, then our clients will never achieve their maximum potential.  

So the answer to my question, do fitness trackers make you fatter, is of course not so simple. Any weight loss program must include a total package of exercise, diet and psychology that is tailor-made for specific clients, and we must never under estimate the complexities of the human mind.

We have all had different experiences, so if you have an opinion about this topic then please share it with me by clicking on

Chris Hunt
PilatesEVO Creator