The sales of fitness trackers has been increasing but do they really work? The experts all agree that people to set goals and remind them of their goal absolutely works. However, evidence that people get healthier when using fitness trackers is limited because the devices are new and studies have mostly been small or focused on specific groups of people. Fitness trackers can grab a lot of data: how many steps you’ve taken, where you’ve run, how many calories you’ve burned, how fast your heart is beating, how much oxygen you’ve got in your blood, and how well you’re sleeping. They can be synced with smartphones, apps and scales. The International Data says more than 11 million of the devices were sold in the first quarter of this year, triple sales from a year ago. Fitbit’s product sales doubled and revenue nearly tripled in 2014. In one of the few completed clinical trials of fitness trackers, Dr. Lisa Cadmus-Bertram found that overweight middle-aged and older women who used a Fitbit got about an hour of additional exercise a week. A group of women who were given pedometers didn’t improve.
Cadmus-Bertram thinks that if the women had received more support they might have experienced even bigger gains. But the study involved a specific group of women — they were around 60, white and affluent. And they still didn’t reach the activity goals that experts recommend. The results were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine this month. Cadmus-Bertram is preparing to launch additional studies on Garmin’s Vivofit tracker and plans to test the LED-based heartbeat sensors in some activity trackers to see if their measurements are accurate. She said it’s hard for researchers to keep up with the pace of innovation and new features to determine if they are really useful. Experts say, even though the trackers’ benefits prove hard to quantify, they may do some real good because they could change the way people think about their own habits and approach to health.