Last year I bought a Lumo Lift, a device that tracks calories and buzzes whenever its wearer slouches. I wore it for about two weeks, wrote an article about it, and put it in a drawer. There it has sat, forlorn and uncharged, ever since.
My experience is apparently not unusual. The authors of a new editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association point out that fitness trackers, like the FitBit and Jawbone, only work if they're worn consistently, in the right way, and by people who actually need to become more healthy. And despite the gadgets' proliferation in recent years, each one of those factors is kind of a long shot.
The authors, Mitesh Patel, David Asch, and Kevin Volpp of the University of Pennsylvania, point to a survey showing that only about one or two percent of Americans use wearables. (Depending on the definition of "wearable," other surveys have found a much higher number—about 20 percent.)
Among those who buy them, about half are younger than 35 and nearly a third earn more than $100,000 a year, the JAMA authors write. In other words, they're not likely to be the people who need the most help to lose weight.
On top of that, they note, more than half of people who buy fitness trackers stop using them. A third do so within six months. And for the rest, consistency is a struggle: An earlier report from PricewaterhouseCoopers found that among people who own any kind of wearable device, only 10 percent wear it every day and 7 percent wear it a few times a week. The rest are fair-weather FitBitters, donning their devices a few times a month or less.