Want to lose more weight? While using a weight loss smartphone app could help, researchers say you’re better off pairing it with another app–one that encourages you to exercise as well.
Reported earlier this month by LiveScience, the research shows that people who paired a weight loss app with a fitness app ended up losing more weight; on the other hand, those who used a weight loss app alone were less likely to shed weight.
And the biggest reason why it worked? For Lose It! CEO Charles Teague, it’s all about motivation.
“[A fitness app provides] another level of accountability,” says Teague, whose app Lose It! was involved in the study. “Motivation is a major factor in helping our members lose weight and it was exciting to see the role connecting an activity tracker to Lose it! can play.”
For the study, researchers surveyed over 5,000 people who were currently using the smartphone app Lose It! to help them lose weight. After asking them how often the used this app to track their weight loss–87 percent of them confirmed using it everyday–they then asked them if they paired it with any other apps, such as a fitness app.
As it turned out, an overwhelming majority of them did, and how it affected their weight loss was an immediate interest to researchers. 60 percent of them said they lost more weight while combining both apps together, with even more participants–around 92 percent–noting that fitness apps also motivated them as well.
However, these people didn’t necessarily lose weight because the apps caused them to lose weight, say health experts; instead, it probably motivated them to modify their behavior.
“It’s likely not the wearable device itself that’s causing people to lose weight, but rather how the wearable or the app engages users to motivate them to change their behavior,” says Mitesh S. Patel, an assistant professor of medicine and healthcare management at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine. “The people who responded to the survey are probably more motivated than the average person in the population.”
However, experts note one important flaw in the study design: The participants’ weight was not measured by the research group and relied heavily on self-reported data. Self-reported data, unlike objective data collected by researchers, are often inaccurate, and may under-report or over-report certain findings, such as weight loss.
Still, the findings are interesting, health experts admit.
“Although wearable devices have the potential to help people change their behaviors, more studies need to be done to look at which engagement strategy works best for users,” says Patel.
What This Means For You
While further research is still pending, this study points out one important finding: To lose more weight, finding a way to stay on track helps. For some people, that includes self-reporting their weight loss journey into weight loss and fitness apps. And, if you can’t get your hands off your smartphone, then this too could be a good option for keeping those pesky holiday pounds at bay.
Readers: Do you use any smartphone apps for weight loss or fitness?