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The Boston Herald
A fitness-app craze could be leading people to New Year's resolution dead-ends, local doctors say, while obesity is still skyrocketing nationwide.
"We look at fitness trackers and it's important to recognize just because we see an increase in activity, we don't see significant changes in weight," said Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, an obesity medicine doctor from the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center. "We do see consistent increases in obesity - we've reached pandemic levels."
Among the newer digital tools for weight loss is "Sweatcoin," a free app that allows users to accumulate points that can be used for purchases down the line.
Meanwhile, the national obesity average hovers around 40 percent, up from 5 percent to 10 percent in the 1980s.
For sustainable weight loss, people need to do more than just monitor their physical activity, Cody Stanford said.
"Activity is good for weight maintenance, not loss," Cody Stanford said. "Expectations need to be managed. Very few people will see significant drops in weight with modifications in activity."
A slew of factors play into health and fitness, Cody Stanford said, including diet, genetic makeup, external stressors and medications that could cause weight fluctuation.
And while the apps can help get people out of their houses and into their running shoes, their very existence points to part of the problem: a reliance on technology, said Dr. Douglas Comeau, of the Ryan Center for Sports Medicine at Boston University.
"People used to play pick-up basketball, and instead they play video games now," Comeau said. "The reason they have this app craze is so people can get off couch, because people are on their phones and the culture has become more I.T.-based."
He added that the most effective apps are ones that take diet into consideration, because working out alone can give people false hope.
"People say, 'I'm working out so I can go out on the weekends and party,'" Comeau said. "But they're getting rid of all those good calories they burned for the week by having a few drinks."
The success of each app depends in part on how each person chooses to use it, said Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, chief of Women's Sports Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
"If you're walking to McDonald's, it's not going to help as much," Matzkin said.
But, she added, "If it helps you get up and go, it's a good start."
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