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How we talk about Fitbit today isn't all that different from how we talked about pedometers in the 1990s

Even President Obama wears a Fitbit.
Even President Obama wears a Fitbit.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Though wearable fitness trackers have advanced considerably in recent years, there's no clear evidence that they actually improve people's health. Still, some believe they are the answer to today's obesity crisis, and can turn us into exercise-loving hard bodies.

But this isn't the first time Americans have fallen in love with a seemingly promising fitness-tracking device. A 1999 story from the LA Times should sound familiar:

"Electronic pedometers have become increasingly popular 'movement motivators' in health promotion programs, including weight loss clinics, corporate fitness centers and physical education classes."

We've always believed fitness trackers can improve health


Kicking it old-school with a pedometer. (Angela Schmidt/Shutterstock)

In the piece, a personal trainer claims pedometers helped her clients "become more accountable for their behavior." Another professor reported: "People love it because they get immediate feedback on how active, or inactive, they are." And a fitness company owner said that "the devices can be particularly motivating for children."

The health goal most people should aim for, according to the article, is 10,000 steps per day, and pedometers will "help people recognize and change sedentary habits."

"Unlike old-style mechanical pedometers, the newer electronic versions are extremely accurate."

Fitness trackers have indeed increased in accuracy and capability since 1999. And today, the lure of wearable devices is so appealing that an initial IPO for the Fitbit tracker valued the company at $6.3 billion.

However, the research on today's wearables suggests that for most people, the novelty of these devices wears off after a few short months — and so do any lifestyle changes.