There’s definitely no shortage of free fitness apps, fitness trackers and Instagram motivation to give you workout ideas and keep you inspired these days. Just think about how thrilled we get when we hit our step goals on our Fitbit for the day. But when it comes to tracking our progress, we may be relying on technology too much (hear us out). A new study measured the performance of fitness trackers from Fitbit to Apple Watch, and found that they might not be counting your steps, distance and calories burned quite as accurately as they claim.
Researchers at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona monitored 22 healthy volunteers in their early-20s to early-30s wearing fitness trackers during a regimen of rest, walking and running on a treadmill and cycling on an ergometer. Then researchers took an electrocardiogram (ECG), basically a measurement of participants’ heart activity, and compared it with the wearables’ data. (And you thought just having to put on a sports bra to work out was a hassle.) The study looked at the four most popular fitness wearable models: Apple Watch, Fitbit Charge HR, Samsung Gear S and Mio Alpha.
The good news: You don’t need to rush out and trade in whatever wrist candy you currently own for a different brand. ALL devices proved pretty (okay, sometimes really) inaccurate, frequently underestimating heart rate and energy expenditure, and none stood out as any better than the others. And researchers weren’t surprised: This study was actually conducted in relation to an ongoing class action lawsuit that claims Fitbit trackers are inaccurate.
Interestingly, the study shows that when these devices track physical activity, the margin of error is usually in that they underestimate it. Simple step count estimates for the Apple Watch, Fitbit Charge HR and Samsung Gear S were all in an acceptable range of error: within 4–6 percent. But for greater energy expenditures, the heart rate estimation from the devices was off by up to 43 percent — or 20 beats per minute — in some cases. Whoa. Are our Fitbits trying to fit-shame us?
If you’re seriously trying to manage your weight with exercise and want to be really strict about hitting your goals, relying on your fitness tracker as a digital personal trainer might not be the best route for success. If only because it’s not giving you enough credit and may lead to you over-doing it on your run without even realizing it.
How do you track and monitor your workouts? Tweet us your ideas @BritandCo!
(Photo via Getty)