Can a Fitbit Help You Lose Weight? Here’s What the Research Says

Attractive sports girl is using a smartphone and looking at her fitbit, on brick wall background

Can a Fitbit Help You Lose Weight? Here’s What the Research Says

Key Points

  • Fitbit has sold over 135 million fitness trackers worldwide since its launch in 2010.
  • Fitbit is a popular fitness tracker that offers features such as heart rate monitoring, step counting, sleep scoring, and workout tracking.
  • Wearing a Fitbit alone does not directly cause weight loss; it is a tool that provides motivation and tracks activity.
  • Studies have shown that Fitbit wearers are more likely to achieve their weight loss goals, but motivation and lifestyle changes are key to success.
  • To lose weight with a Fitbit, it is important to take a comprehensive approach to fitness, use Fitbit’s workout guides, set reasonable goals, and maintain momentum.

Since the popularization of the Fitbit in 2010, more than 135 million of these fitness trackers have been sold around the world. Even with the Apple Watch, the Oura Ring, and other hot competitors on the market, Fitbit has managed to keep a strong hold on the fitness tracker market for more than a decade. From afternoon workouts to morning runs, and weightlifting sessions to neighborhood bike rides, Fitbit is there to track all your activity. But can a Fitbit truly help you lose weight? What’s the relationship between wearing a Fitbit and shedding pounds? Here’s what science has to say.

What Does a Fitbit Actually Do?

fitbit inspire 3 vs fitbit inspire 2
Fitbit has sold over 135 million units since 2010.

Fitbit launched in 2007 under the name Healthy Metrics Research, Inc. (It didn’t switch over to the much catchier Fitbit name until later that year.) Two years later, it released the Fitbit Tracker: a state-of-the-art, one-of-a-kind activity monitor. It took the existing idea of a step counter and elevated it into the 21st century with all kinds of useful smart features. Fitbit improved upon the tracker again in 2012 with the introduction of iOS and Android integration. This move turned the Fitbit from an activity tracker to a true social experiment.

Now, people could share their activity socially with friends and family they’d connected with on the app. People could hold each other accountable, get competitive with their daily step counts or other fitness metrics, and even take part in group challenges for badges and titles in the app. Fitbit exploded in popularity from that point on. By 2016, the fitness tracker was a true cultural phenomenon. Fitbit was even named one of Fast Company’s top 50 most innovative companies and ranked in the top 50 of Deloitte’s Fast 500 North America list in the same year.

Today, your average Fitbit tracker offers an array of useful features. This list includes heart rate monitoring, step counting, sleep scoring, workout tracking, calories burned, blood oxygen level, and even stress. Some of the company’s more advanced products — such as its smartwatch offerings — give users even more to play with. However, these specs listed above are the most essential of the bunch. But how do these features help you lose weight? Is there actually a link between weight loss and wearing a Fitbit tracker?

Can You Lose Weight Wearing a Fitbit?

Fitbit Sense vs Galaxy Watch 4
Simply wearing a Fitbit might not be enough to lose weight.

You know what a Fitbit can do. We’ve listed all its most popular features and discussed everything it tracks. But what about weight loss? How does that factor into the Fitbit equation? The Fitbit is not a scale. It’s difficult for it to track actual weight loss during your workouts and other fitness activities. You can’t just put it down on the ground, step on it, and expect it to spit out a number. It can only give you an estimate based on your starting weight and body mass index (BMI), but that’s all it is: an estimate.

This problem is not exclusive to Fitbits. The Apple Watch and other fitness trackers and smartwatches are guilty of this, too. It’s easy for a company to say “This device tracks your steps!” or “This wearable technology can tell you your heart rate and blood oxygen level!” It’s a lot harder to claim “This nifty thing will make you lose weight.” That’s because the device itself — whether it be a Fitbit, an Apple Watch, an Oura Ring, or other wearable accessory — is merely an activity tracker, not an activity doer.

The Fitbit only tracks what you do during your workouts and other daily activities. That doesn’t mean it physically forces you to work out and be active. That part’s on you. All the Fitbit can do is track. It can’t actually make you do anything. There’s a big difference here. Fitbits and other activity trackers simply motivate. That’s all. You cannot put on a Fitbit and expect to start losing weight immediately. You actually have to get active to lose weight — with or without a Fitbit strapped to your wrist.

What Research Says About Weight Loss and Fitness Trackers

Let's train more. Woman relaxing after workout outdoors. Copy space on the left side
Research shows fitness trackers can help some reach their goals, but may hinder others.

Don’t be mistaken. There’s a very real link between people who wear Fitbits and people who successfully lose weight and hit their weight loss goals. This fact has been proven by study after study. Fitbit wearers lose more weight and are more likely to achieve their weight loss goals compared to people who don’t. The stats are similar for fitness trackers at large — not just Fitbit. People who wear fitness trackers can lose more weight than those who don’t. As it turns out, it’s not the device itself causing the pounds to drop off. It’s the motivation it provides the wearer.

Here’s what the scientific research says about the relationship between Fitbits and weight loss. A study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine argued that people with heart disease and diabetes were more motivated to lose weight when wearing a fitness tracker. Another by the University of Minnesota argues that people who wear fitness trackers were able to lose more weight and reduce their BMI by greater numbers than participants who did not. Of course, for every batch of studies arguing one point, there are just as many that argue the opposing side.

The driving principle behind linking Fitbits with weight loss is the idea that people are motivated to change negative aspects about themselves when presented with fact-based evidence about it. However, not all are motivated in this way. Studies out of the University of Pittsburgh and Duke University show that others actually experience the opposite. The Fitbit can make fitness feel like work, resulting in procrastination and, eventually, weight gain — not loss. The key, it seems, is knowing how to lose weight while wearing a Fitbit.

How to Lose Weight With a Fitbit

Fitbit Sense vs Versa 3
Incorporating a Fitbit into an existing workout routine is a smart way to lose weight.

As we’ve seen, it seems fair to say that you and the Fitbit need to work together to help you lose weight. You cannot rely solely on the Fitbit to make your weight loss goals a reality. You have to know how to change your lifestyle and put in the work yourself first, then put the Fitbit on to help you keep track of your progress. Its motivation tools and words of encouragement are more likely to help you than hurt you, but you have to be willing to make your weight loss goals happen with or without the fitness tracker for the best results. Here’s how.

Look at the Big Picture

As with any fitness journey or weight loss mission, it’s so important for you to look at the big picture. Diet alone might not be sufficient. Same for calorie intake. Or sugar consumption. Or carb load. This extends to workouts, too. Use your Fitbit to take a comprehensive approach to fitness. Instead of focusing on one specific area that’s supposed to magically help you shed weight, consider a more wide-ranging approach that factors in the big picture of your overall health.

Use Fitbit’s Workout Guides

Fitbit has a ton of great guided workouts built right into its app. Use them! The company has put a lot of time and effort into curating these workout guides for its users. The guides are designed to help you get the most out of your Fitbit device and help you yield the best results. Instead of looking to other proprietary workout programs (not to mention paying extra for them), just open up the fitness tracker’s companion app and scroll through the ones they’re offering you free of charge.

Set Reasonable Goals

You’re not wrong for wanting to lose weight fast. It’s perfectly reasonable to have the desire to quickly change the way you look and feel when you’re no longer happy and confident in your own skin. However, you must set reasonable goals if you want to have weight loss success. Don’t go into the Fitbit app and set crazy goals that you’ll never be able to accomplish out of the gate. Set reasonable stepping stones instead. Baby steps will motivate you better in the long run.

Steps Aren’t Always Enough

Have you ever heard someone talk about hitting their step goals? “Getting your steps in” has become synonymous with Fitbit’s fitness trackers in the years since they hit the market. However, steps are hardly adequate for significant weight loss. They’re a great place to start, of course, but that’s all they are: a place to start. You should still get those steps in, but you shouldn’t call it quits for the day once you’re done. Steps alone may not deliver the weight loss you’re hoping for.

Don’t Lose Momentum

Lastly, don’t throw off your goals by letting the momentum get away from you. Working out, losing weight, and getting fit are all an ongoing process. It’s a daily thing, and you have to make it a priority. If you don’t, you risk throwing off everything you’ve worked so hard for. We already know that the Fitbit can make working out feel like work for some. It’s so important to ignore that negative connotation and stick to your fitness goals. The longer your streak, the easier it’ll be to keep up the momentum.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a Fitbit help with weight loss?

The Fitbit is a comprehensive fitness tracker, meaning it monitors your daily activities like steps taken, calories burned, and exercise intensity. When used correctly, this holistic view of your physical activity and health can help you make better decisions to help with weight loss.

Does Fitbit measure calories accurately?

Fitbit uses a wide range of data (including heart rate, activity level, and other personal details) to estimate your total calories burned. While it’s far from perfect, it offers a good enough reflection of the calories burned throughout the day.

Does a Fitbit help you lose weight faster?

A Fitbit can be a great help on your weight loss journey. From its real-time feedback to its motivation features and comprehensive approach to fitness, it’s certainly easy to keep track of all the important weight loss specs. However, it’s difficult to say if it actually makes you lose weight faster. 

What Fitbit features are best for weight loss?

Fitbit’s step tracking, heart rate monitoring, and food logging features are particularly useful for weight loss. These features help you keep track of your active lifestyle, help you understand your exercise intensity, and help you keep tabs on your calories for better weight management.

Does Fitbit track sleep?

Yes, Fitbit tracks sleep patterns. Quality sleep is linked to weight loss because sleep regulates hormones and hormones influence appetite. This means tracking sleep can be an important part of your weight loss journey.

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