Fitness Tracker Watch – Are Activity Trackers Accurate?
The ever increasing popularity of smart devices such as the wearable fitness tracker watch that measures your heart beat, the number of steps you walk and the amount of calories you burn
Smart wearable devices such as the fitness tracker watch are very popular with the health conscious people like you and me. Not only does it track the distance and the number of steps you walk, run or hike, activity trackers like the Fitbit Charge HR, Fitbit Blaze, Garmin Vivosmart HR can also measure your heart beat, monitor your sleep, the amount of calories you burn and even doubles as a smart watch that tells you when your smartphone have incoming calls and messages. There are plenty of bells and whistles on offer.
Does a Fitness Tracker Watch Really Work?
Whilst not all fitness tracker watches are perfect in design and in performance, a recent research conducted by researchers from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health discovered that the activity trackers in general are good at measuring some aspects of your physical activity whilst not reliable at other metrics.
The study conducted was on two popular activity tracking brands, a Fitbit and a Jawbone and the activites were compared on how accurate the devices performed from step counting, distance covered, physical activity, calory burned during a workout and measuring the nightly quality of sleep.
The results conclusively found the following –
- Both fitness trackers step counting feature were accurate
- Both fitness trackers sleep tracking feature were inaccurate
- Both fitness trackers calorie count function were inaccurate
- The results for distance covered and physical activity lacked enough studies for a finding
In other words, a quality wrist style fitness tracker watch are most suitable for step counting whilst not necessary accurate enough in providing an overall picture of the state of your health. It is a compromise on the results for both sleep and calorie counting, and the data it provides should be treated as not set in stone.
Essential reading – The Best Fitness Watches For Women & Men
So in terms of performance of the activity trackers it can be accurate to a certain extent and the measurements can only be indicative. But these fitness devices will only get better as technology improves with wearable fitness trackers.
It really boils down to asking yourself is “Which is a priority, accuracy or convenience?” If you don’t mind that difference in 10 to 15% accuracy, a wristband fitness watch may be for you!
Personally I have a few fitness trackers with heart rate monitor like the Fitbit Charge HR which I wear the entire day except when I shower, and from experience, I have found the results to be quite accurate with step counting and sleep monitoring.
In regards to the Sleep monitoring, at times but not all the time, it does over compensate, but then as someone who wears it on a daily basis and knowing my own sleeping habits and schedule, I have no issues with the results as it allows me to get into a good daily healthy routine.
Five Simple Ways to Improve the Accuracy of Your Fitness Tracker Watch
The studies from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and RTI International suggested the following steps
- Make sure your activity tracker knows which hand it will be sitting one and wear it in the same spot daily
- Prior to wearing the tracking device, enter the correct information such as your height, weight, age and gender. And update your weight details when necessary
- If the device allows : enter the length of your normal walking stride. This can be simply achieved by visiting somewhere that you know the exact distance of, then count the number steps walked to that distance, and when that is done divide the total distance walked by the number of steps counted to get your stride length.
- In order to reduce the amount of guesswork provided by the wearable tracker, feed it with as much information via the journal function
- Calibrate with the sleep mode settings
Activity Trackers Provides Motivation
However another study conducted by the University of North Carolina have found that wearing an activity tracker can motivate you to be more active and exercise more.
This is due to the fact that the wearer of the activity tracker can easily obtain visual data of daily physical activities by simply tapping on the fitness tracker watch, on the app and on the computer.
Hence with this easy access of neat information, it will inform the wearer in quick time whether he or she has been active enough or not moving enough during the day.
And as more Fitness Trackers like the Fitbit and Garmin enter into the ‘Smartwatch’ space, the covenience it offers is very beneficial – the ease of access to data of your daily physical activity and coupled with smart style phone notifications.
Whilst an activity tracker is not perfect, it can provide accurate step count of your movements, and other features like GPS tracking can provide accurate details of your activities. But fitness tracker readings for calorie burn and quality of sleep must be treated as indicative only and let’s face it, only you will know how well you have slept and the quality of foods you supplied your body with. Without question, if you want to get in shape, a fitness tracker watch can offer a convenient motivational tool to help you stay focused and motivated to get into a more healthier lifestyle.
While you’re here check out the top rated fitness trackers today