Do you check your step count every time you get up and walk or run anywhere? Do you purposely pace around or aimlessly walk somewhere to boost your step count? Do you begrudgingly change your routine to make sure all your vitals such as heart rate are in the desired zone?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions then congratulations! You are attempting to live a healthy lifestyle!
Or you’re addicted to your fitness tracker.
Living a healthy life can be tough. Getting in shape can require you to keep track every detail of your diet and monitor your workouts which is hard to do without the right guidance and equipment. Technology has helped out in a big way. When attempting to lose weight or pack on some muscle, a fitness tracker is the perfect accessory.
A fitness tracker is a wearable device that records your physical activity and displays data relating to your health, such as your heart rate, calories burned, etc. It can even track your sleep. It is a great way to stay motivated and keep up with your fitness regimen.
According to one survey, 51% of American adults use wearable fitness trackers every day. Additionally, according to a study by Juniper Research, the number of adults in the U.S. that uses fitness trackers is expected to double in the next five years. The same study also revealed that the wearable technology market will generate $20 billion in annual sales by 2021.
Whether you want to stay active or want to make healthier food choices, your fitness tracker can be your personal guide to healthy living. But do they actually work? According to several studies, the data provided by your fitness tracker may not actually be that accurate.
One study published in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology tracked 800 adults for a year and separated them into groups, some wearing a clip-on activity tracker and some not.
The results of the study were disappointing.
After six months, the only people to actually walk more were the ones from the first group due to the cash incentive. They were able to stay motivated but there was no difference in their weight, blood pressure and heart rate. Furthermore, in 12 months, 90% of the test participants stopped wearing their fitness tracker.
“I thought the Fitbit would work better than it did,” stated Eric Finkelstein, Ph.D., lead author of the study.
Another study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, aimed to test if wearing a fitness tracker while on a weight loss program would result in greater weight loss. Random clinical trials were conducted between October 2010 and October 2012 involving 471 adult participants who were placed on a low-calorie diet, prescribed an increase in physical activity, and had group counseling sessions. The results revealed that the individuals without fitness trackers lost more weight than those who wore the device. And even though weight is not an exact measure for one’s health, the study concluded that individuals with fitness trackers were no more active or fit than those without.
“We found that just giving people a device doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to result in something you think it’s going to result in,” John Jakicic, the author of the study stated. “These activity trackers really don’t engage people in strategies that really make a difference in terms of long-term lifestyle change,” he added.
These studies focused on the behavior people had towards the trackers rather than the accuracy of their data. Taking a closer look at the devices themselves, here’s what we discovered:
A study undertaken by researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine measured the effectiveness of seven popular fitness trackers; the Apple Watch, Basis Peak, Fitbit Surge, Microsoft Band, Mio Alpha 2, PulseOn and the Samsung Gear S2 against medical-grade devices.
The results revealed that fitness trackers were accurate in measuring heart rate. Six out of the seven trackers tested achieved an average error rate of five percent. However, it was also found out that the devices were inaccurate in counting the calories burned. The error in measuring the calories burned was contributed to factors like the physiological makeups among the individuals tested and the algorithms each device uses in its calculations.
Fitness trackers are not always accurate but this is mostly because wearable technology is a rather recent development to the digital world. There’s a long way to go in order for it to achieve precision in the data they provide. Accurate or not, they do keep people motivated in staying physically active. Wearable technology can be a helpful part of your health regime if you use it wisely and do your research.