The Use of Wearables for Weight Loss in Obese Patients

Chidozie Ukpabi, Mercer University College of Pharmacy

According to the American Heart Association, nearly 78 million adults and 13 million children in the United States struggle with obesity. It is suggested that keeping a food diary to control food intake in combination with exercise are successful strategies to effectively lose weight. [1] This has implicated the use of wearables in assisting with weight loss goals, due to their ability to track exercise and meal intake. According to an article describing the rise of consumer health wearables, one in six (15%) consumers in the United States currently use wearable technology. Wearables provide personalized health data, which have been described to assist with behavior changes needed to lose weight. [2]

Effect of Wearable Technology Combined with a Lifestyle Intervention on Long-term Weight Loss: The IDEA Randomized Clinical Trial [3]
Design Randomized, clinical trial; N= 471
Objective To compare a standard behavioral weight loss intervention (SBWI) with a technology-enhanced weight loss intervention (EWLI)
Study Groups Standard intervention (n= 234); enhanced intervention (n= 237)
Methods Both groups received a behavioral weight loss intervention for 6 months. At 6 months, both interventions added telephone counseling sessions, text message prompts, and access to study materials on a website. After the initial 6 months, participants randomized to the SBWI group initiated self-monitoring of diet and physical activity behaviors, and those in the EWLI group were offered BodyMedia Fit Core® wearable devices that monitored and provided feedback on physical activity and diet in a web-accessible interfaced format.
Duration 24 months
Primary Outcome Measure Weight change at 24 months
Baseline Characteristics  

Age, y, median, (range) 30.9 (18.4-35.9) 30.9 (18.4-35.9) 31.0 (19.3-35.9)
Male, n (%) 136 (28.9) 67 (28.8) 69 (29.1)
Female, n (%) 334 (71.1) 166 (71.2) 168 (70.9)
White, n (%) 363 (77.2) 180 (77.3) 183 (77.2)
Non-white, n (%) 107 (22.8) 53 (22.8) 54 (22.8)
Hispanic/ Latino, n (%) 20 (4.3) 11 (4.7) 9 (3.8)
Non-Hispanic/ Latino, n (%) 450 (95.7) 222 (95.3) 228 (96.2)
Median weight, kg, (25th-75th percentile) 90 (60.1-146.1) 88.5 (62.8-129.6) 90.6 (60.1-146.1)
Median waist circumference, cm (25th-75th percentile)
Measured at the iliac crest 101.5 (76.4-134.8) (100.7) 76.7-134.8 102.7 (76.4-132.7)
Measured at the umbilicus 104.8 (78.4-136.3) 104.3 (79.2-136.3) 105.7 (78.4-132.2)

Baseline 6 months 12 months 18 months 24 months
Median weight, kg (25th-75th percentile)
SBWI 95.2 (93.0 to 97.3) −8.6 (−9.5 to −7.7) −8.3 (−9.2 to −7.4) −7.3 (−8.3 to −6.4) −5.9 (−6.8 to −5.0)
EWLI 96.3 (94.2 to 98.5) −8.0 (−8.8 to −7.1) −6.7 (−7.6 to −5.8) −5.4 (−6.3 to −4.4) −3.5 (−4.5 to −2.6)
Difference N/A −0.6 (−1.9 to 0.6) −1.6 (−2.8 to −0.3) −1.9 (−3.3 to −0.6) −2.4 (−3.7 to −1.0)
p-value N/A 0.29 0.03 0.01 0.002
Adverse Events Common Adverse Events: N/A
Serious Adverse Events: N/A
Percentage that Discontinued due to Adverse Events: N/A
Study Author Conclusions Among young adults with a BMI between 25 and less than 40, the addition of a wearable technology device to a standard behavioral intervention resulted in less weight loss over 24 months. Devices that monitor and provide feedback on physical activity may not offer an advantage over standard behavioral weight loss approaches.


The use of wearables has been increasing and is said to reach 110 million users by 2018. [2] The media has been pushing for the wide use of wearable fitness devices, suggesting that the obesity epidemic is largely due to the increased sedentary behavior of the population. However, although the trial did show that the SBWI was more effective for weight loss in comparison to EWLI, it is important to note that weight loss for both interventions was not sustainable long term. Both groups lost the most weight in the first 6 months of the trial. Physical activity, or a lack thereof, may only be a small factor in obesity. Physical activity and maintaining caloric deficits were encouraged but the types of calories the participants were consuming were not taken into consideration. This could have been the last modifiable variable that could have possibly increased the effectiveness of both weight loss interventions.




  1. Understanding the American Obesity Epidemic. Heartorg. 2016. Available at: Accessed September 27, 2016.
  2. Piwek L, Ellis DA, Andrews S, Joinson A. The Rise of Consumer Health Wearables: Promises and Barriers. PLoS Med. 2016;13(2):e1001953.
  3. Jakicic JM, Davis KK, Rogers RJ, et al. Effect of Wearable Technology Combined With a Lifestyle Intervention on Long-term Weight Loss: The IDEA Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2016;316(11):1161-1171.





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