Workout clothes…check! Exercise shoes…check! Activity tracker…check!
Activity trackers have grown increasingly popular in recent years. Some people opt for chest straps to monitor heart rate during exercise. Others prefer wearing wrist trackers all day and night that look like watches or bracelets. Today’s monitors track everything from daily steps, workouts, heart rate, calories burned, sleep, and more! The question is… are these devices accurate?
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) wanted to find out. ACE sponsored a study to examine the accuracy of the following activity trackers:
- Nike+ Fuelband ($99-$149)
- Fitbit Ultra ($99)
- Jawbone UP ($99)
- BodyMedia FitCore ($99)
- Adidas MiCoach ($199)
Note: Since this study was completed, Jawbone purchased BodyMedia.
Researchers studied 20 healthy people (10 men, 10 women) ages 18-44. The study focused on two areas: 1. Measure energy expenditure (calories burned), 2. Measure steps taken. Subjects performed two separate 50-minute training sessions. They wore all the activity trackers at once plus “a portable metabolic analyzer and the NL-2000i pedometer, which has proven reliability,” according to the report.
Researchers said the activity trackers were “pretty reliable” at tracking steps…within 10% accuracy. The winning device in this department was the Jawbone Up. As far as measuring calories burned, researchers say the trackers were generally less accurate. Some underestimated caloric expenditure while others overestimated it.
What’s an exerciser to do? Researchers concluded activity trackers have a valuable place in the workout world, despite varying results. One of the study’s authors, Caitlin M. Stackpool, M.S., says activity trackers can be eye opening and motivating tools, especially for people new to exercise. “Activity trackers show people how active they are throughout the day. Being sedentary 90 percent of the time and performing 30 minutes of exercise does not necessarily make a person ‘active,’” Stackpool reported. Furthermore, researcher John P. Porcari, Ph.D., said “Studies show that people are 30 to 40 percent more active when they use activity trackers.”
Activity trackers continue to evolve. New models have hit the market since this study was published in early 2015 and industry experts predict the use of activity trackers will triple by 2018. Bottom line… if it helps you move more, use it!