Step trackers seem to be all the rage these days. With new styles and ever-expanding abilities, there’s something to appeal to everyone. But are they really worth the money? A rash of recent studies seem to show that they aren’t as beneficial as people think. But wait. How can something that motivates you to be more active NOT be good for you? Here’s a closer look at the research and what it may actually mean.

What the Research Says

A recent study published in September of 2016 found that among 471 participants, those who used a fitness tracker specifically to lose weight lost less weight than those who self-monitored and reported their own exercise and diet. Those participants who relied on a fitness tracker still lost weight, however, and the study did not measure the main purpose of fitness trackers: simply being more active.

There was also a previous study, involving 51 participants which showed that the use of a fitness tracker in conjunction with in-person weight loss consultation produced the best results, with those receiving only one or the other losing less weight. The use of fitness trackers alone still helped participants to lose weight as well as improving cardiovascular function.

It’s All About Motivation

The biggest issue in these studies seems to be the fact that many participants lost interest and motivation before the studies ended. As anyone who has tried to diet knows, the hardest part is always staying motivated to meet your goals. No one fitness or diet strategy works for everyone. But for those who do respond to daily, ongoing feedback, fitness trackers can be great – and inexpensive – motivators to get up and move more. If you have a daily step goal – be it 10,000 steps or 6,000 – looking at your tracker and seeing that you are short of that goal can inspire you to get up and take a walk, stop by the gym for a workout session, or take that hike you were thinking about.

Tracking Steps Makes for Healthy Habits

Are you one of those people who tries to carry in all the grocery bags at once or hates having to walk the shopping cart back to the store? Using a fitness tracker may just change your mind. Knowing that making multiple trips gives you more steps can be just the incentive you need to carry only a few things in at a time, do the right thing and walk your cart back to its allotted place, or choose the stairs over the elevator. Waiting for the perfect parking space close to the store? Parking further away gives you more steps – and makes for a far healthier habit. It may surprise you how quickly making the choices involving more walking becomes automatic.

Friendly Competition

For some people, competition is the best motivator. Many fitness trackers, such as Fitbit, Garmin, and Misfit, offer the chance to share your stats and compete with family and friends online, creating a strong social network to support you. You can also compete with yourself to earn badges and meet individual fitness goals on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Regardless of any study, the key to both fitness and weight loss is being more active – and a fitness tracker is a great tool to help you get started!