Originally published February 21 2015
Accuracy of fitness trackers called into question
by Jennifer Lilley
(NaturalNews) If you're wearing a fitness tracker to gauge your physical activity and the calories you've burned, you may want to reconsider the numbers you see at the end of your workout or day. The truth is, what you see may be far from accurate. In fact, the results could be way off base in either direction; research has shown that there are differences in the calorie expenditure reported among various trackers despite the physical activity being exactly the same.
This is disturbing news for health-conscious people who often spend a great deal of money on fitness trackers. Indeed, a lot of people are dishing out the dollars for these items; it's thought that by 2018, about 130 million of them will have been sold worldwide. That's a lot of people who are relying on accurate reporting to learn more about and improve their health. That's also a lot of people who should be shocked to learn that, according to a University of Iowa study, some fitness trackers have overestimated calorie burn by up to 40 percent.(1)
That's when Anna Magee, editor of the health site Healthista.com comes into play. Spurred by her own observation of calorie inaccuracies among the Nike+ FuelBand and the Misfit Shine, she was determined to settle the debate once and for all. As such, she put several popular brands to the test.
First, she tried testing several of these devices on her own. The trackers she used were the Nike+ FuelBand, Misfit Shine, Jawbone Up, FitBit Flex, Garmin Vivofit and the Ki Fit. She strapped the six of them to her arms, then went about a fitness routine that included a half-hour morning workout, a 25-minute walk to her workplace, typing all day and then walking another 25 minutes home at the end of the day.(2)
Six fitness trackers, all with different calorie expenditure resultsMagee found every single one of them to report variations in calorie expenditure; between all of them, it was estimated that she burned between 1,591 and 2,196 calories.(2)
That's when Magee took the testing up a notch. Alongside exercise science professor Dylan Thompson from the United Kingdom's University of Bath, she tested the wearable fitness tracking bands against an indirect calorimetry machine while wearing a mask to measure her carbon dioxide and oxygen levels. Then, she started walking.(2)
Once again, the results are bothersome.
The reliable calorimetry machine reported that she burned 28.2 calories. Fitbit Flex reported numbers that were nearly double, coming in at 54 calories. Nike's FuelBand reported 30 calories, Jawbone Up came in at 38, Misfit Shine reported 49, Garmin Vivofit said 26 and Ki Fit displayed that 40 were burned.(2)
People have been "drinking the fitness tracker Kool Aid"These devices, she wrote, "might not be the weight loss panacea they're often made out to be." In her Healthista.com article on this topic, she added, "I have been drinking the fitness tracker Kool-Aid for the last six months."(3)
Unfortunately, it would appear that so too have millions of people around the globe. For some, they're as much a style statement as they are something that provides health information; celebrities such as Katy Perry, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Alba have been known to wear fitness trackers. For the most part, however, people are taking issue with faulty readings that may be ruining their weight loss or other health-related goals.(3)
Interestingly, as of this writing, none of the manufacturers of the brands in question responded to inquiries about the inaccuracies. Furthermore, Gregory Welk, a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, noted, "There's little published data from manufacturers on the validity of these fitness monitors."(1,2)
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