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How accurate are fitness trackers on your phone?

How accurate are fitness trackers on your phone?

We can use a little aid to remain in form. The best fitness trackers provide friendly reminders to obtain and exit; they track steps, measure our rate of heart gross estimated calories, and give us a general reading on how we are active.

Millions wear a fitness tracking device daily, and the world market is worth billions. But what is the accuracy of fitness trackers?

" The short answer is: It depends, " an Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Epidemiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said Lisa Cadmus-Bertram at Digital Trends. " The long answer is that they are precise enough to be useful to most people for most purposes. But it also varies depending on what you are trying to measure. "

Almost all fitness trackers count your steps, and your distance, and measuring heart rate is becoming more common. They usually also estimate your energy expenses or burnt calories, and they can estimate the quality of your sleep. You will find most of the same features you can expect to find in dedicated fitness trackers in all the best smartwatches.


The shallow end of the physical fitness tracking is a simple count. The target of 10,000 steps a day may be arbitrary, but there is no doubt that more activity is better for you, and that provides a nice and neat number that people can shoot for. The question is: can you trust your fitness tracker to accurately measure your progress?

The accounts are good for most people, but check your number of steps on two fitness trackers or compare it to your smartphone estimate, and you will see differences. The counting of the stages may have been more precise with the first devices to be clipped and designed to be worn on the hip. A smartphone worn in the pants pocket must be able to calculate the steps with great precision. "

" At any time, your tracker can be 20 steps too high or low. "

Devices worn on the wrist will inevitably record many foreign movements that have little to do with physical activity. Even if you wear your fitness tracker on your non-dominant wrist – which is the recommendation –it will record all your hand movements.

Your smartphone may be more precise in counting the steps, but it is not an excellent alternative in the real world. Consider that your phone is not always in your pants pocket; nobody wants a phone when they train, and many women's clothes lack pockets anyway.

Manufacturers have moved away from clip-on trackers because people would lose the devices, forget to tie them, or accidentally send them through the laundry to pieces of sweaty wear. But the passage to the wrist of worn trackers also opened the door to heart rate sensors.


Collecting a fitness tracker or a connected watch with a heart rate sensor is much easier and cheaper today than before, but what is the accuracy of these sensors?

When you train, fitness trackers can be far enough from your heart rate. When you sweat, they often fail to record your heart rate completely. Several studies have shown that fitness trackers and smartwatches are good enough to measure resting or recovering heart rate but become less precise as the intensity of the exercise increases.

The question of how precise it is depends on what you use it for and what you expect. The ECG functionality of the last Apple Watch is not as precise as the 12-lead ECG that it could do in a clinic or hospital. Still, it can always be useful in alerting people to problems and encouraging them to deepen their research.

Run a marathon or train seriously for an event. The variability of the heart rate sensor in a typical fitness tracker may be too high to make it really useful. In this case, a chest strap will be much more precise than a tracker worn on the wrist. But fitness trackers are quite accurate for most people looking for a general idea of their heart rate.

However, something fitness trackers really have a hard time measuring energy spending.


Most activity trackers measure the movement of your body and combine this with your height, weight, gender, and age. Sometimes they may have asked you lifestyle questions during the configuration, and the data may be thrown into the mix. Even the cheapest trackers have all the most important characteristics.

A recent meta-analysis covering 60 previously published studies has shown that fitness trackers are not precise in measuring energy expenditure, especially for less vigorous activities such as walking or housework. But again, this does not mean that they are useless. If you aim to lose weight and want to count the calories burned as part of a diet and exercise effort, fitness trackers can help you do this.

You can calibrate your fitness tracker if you target a deficit of 250 calories per day, equaling half a pound of weight loss per week. Wear it for a month and count calories by recording your food precisely. It's a lot of work to accurately count your calories, but the intersection with your weight and your activity followed allows you to see how far your fitness tracker is and adjust accordingly; it can, therefore, always be a useful tool.

Despite all the potential inaccuracies, there is also a lot of evidence that fitness trackers can encourage you to be more active and help you get fit, provided that you engage with your device and set goals to which you actually work. You must work to adopt good habits but also the right device.


First of all, it is important to consider compatibility with your phone. The Apple Watch will be a great choice if you have an iPhone, but not so much if you don't. There are also many different features, and you have to decide if you want something just to track your business or to serve as a smartwatch.

The heart rate sensor is important; it does not just add a heart rate follow-up. Meta-analysis indicates that devices that use accelerometry alone are also much less accurate for estimating energy expenditure.

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