How Truthful is Your Fitness Tracker?

Whether it’s a Fitbit, an Apple Watch or Microsoft Band, there is a good chance you or someone you know wears a fitness tracker. Yes, that colleague who always takes the stairs and insists on walking on the spot while eating lunch. 

As well as providing details on heart-rate, daily steps and exercise; fitness trackers are also used to measure how many calories the user burns. Well, a recent study at Stanford University has found that most fitness trackers could well be providing false information when it comes to the number of calories burned during a day. If you, like us, wear these fitness trackers, then before reading the rest, please take a seat. We found this very eye-opening…

Counting the calories isn’t as easy as it seems

While the study discovered that six out of the seven fitness devices provided very accurate heart rate information, recording an error rate of just under 5%, that rate increased to 20% when measuring the calories burned during exercise. The seven devices used - Apple Watch, Fitbit Surge, Basis Peak, Microsoft Band, PulseOn, Mio Alpha 2 and Samsung Gear S2 – highlighted the fact that not everything provided by these fitness trackers can be taken at face value.

Put down that extra pastry, you might not have earned it

Dr Euan Ashley, co-author of the study from the department of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University, said the public should be aware of the strengths and limitations of the fitness devices worn on the wrist.

"People need to know that on energy expenditure they give rough estimates. If you go to the gym, and you think you've lost 400 calories, then you might feel you've got 400 calories to play with.”

Back to Gillian McKeith?!

OK, that might be an over exaggeration, but for those people using fitness trackers and the information they provide to influence diet and lifestyle, the fact the information isn’t as accurate as the device makers claim will rightly be a concern.

For example, 10,000 steps could equate to burning between 400 to 800 calories, depending on a person's height and weight. While the study might shock some fitness tracker wearers, there are some very good devices out there that can help people in live a healthier lifestyle.

Our research into this frankly alarming news has also led us to find what tech experts say are the top of the range.

1: Moov Now – Despite only having a limited number of features, this device excels with the functions it does provide, including a remarkable six-month battery life.

2: Garmin Vivosmart HR+ – For high-end fitness tracking, this is one of the best on the market, featuring a host of useful features as well as a battery that can last up to a week.

3: TomTom Spark 3 – As well as the standard functions you’d expect from a fitness tracker, this device also allows users to play music without having to take their phone with them.

This is a booming marketplace, so I’m sure we’ll hear more about the success and failure of these devices. However, while you’re pounding the wards or running around after patients, you can rest assured that the steps your device is recording are as close to accurate as you will every achieve. Happy stepping.


Wednesday Nov 1, 2017