PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Fitness trackers are big business these days, which is why a study done at the University of Pittsburgh is so surprising.

Participants in the study who did not use fitness trackers actually lost more weight! In fact, they lost almost twice as much weight.

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John Jakicic is the director of the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh, and he wears a fitness tracker. He assumed the trackers would help people in the two-year weight loss study.

“Let’s put these devices on people, and we thought it would actually make it better,” said Jakicic. “Boy, we were surprised that it actually had the opposite effect!”

The study involved 470 young adults.

Half the participants were given an armband that measures steps and calories burned. They also got a wristband to show the results.

But it was participants without trackers who wound up losing more weight, on average 13 pounds compared to 7.7 pounds.

So what happened? Jakicic says there could be a number of reasons.

Maybe the trackers made people too focused on steps alone. “As opposed to all the things that matter,” said Jakicic. “Watching my weight. Weighing myself. Watching my food. Activity. Managing my stress. Sleeping well.”

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Or he says maybe people got a false sense of security: “You look down at this device, and it tells you… boy, look how active I’ve been today. Where’s the cupcake?”

Or he says a lack of steps some days may discourage people from even trying.

Despite the study’s overall results, the trackers did help some participants, and he says no one should throw one out.

“Absolutely not. That’s not what this study shows,” said Jakicic. “Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There’s a lot of good that comes with these trackers.”

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Jakicic says sometimes people lose interest in trackers after about three months.

So he says his next step is to see how trackers can be changed to work for more people.

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David Highfield