fitness trackers do they really work

International master healer in the Reiki, Karma and Pranic forms of energy. Yoga and Meditation teacher and Tarot card reader. He writes on healing disease, the mind-body connect and awareness.

fitness trackers do they really work
fitness trackers do they really work

fitness trackers are they accurate

The wristwatch is more or less history especially with the with-it set who wear their fitness on their wrist. Yes, the fitness tracker or fitness band is the latest craze across the word. According to a 2016 American consumer preference report, 2 in 10 Americans used fitness wearables and the figure is only set to rise. So is this gadget the all on one body tracker does it really know when you sleep. Is it able to track your heartbeat accurately? Or is it just the best motivation tool ever invented. We checked out a couple of studies from across the world to co-relate if the fitness tracker is really accurate and therefore worth the money let’s find out

What is a fitness tracker?

Before we understand whether it is accurate or not let’s first understand how a fitness tracker or fitness band works. At a basic level, the fitness tracker or band’s main purpose is to track your movement throughout the day and calculating how many calories you burn.

In its base models today more wrist wearable devices are fitted with a 3-axis accelerometer to track movement in every direction

Moving one step up some are fitted with a gyroscope add-on too to measure orientation and rotation as well.The next level is the altimeter that can measure your altitude they measure the number of stairs you climb up and down during the day. At a larger level, they measure the height of mountains you have climbed.

Then there is a  top of the band fitness tracker with a temperature sensor and a bioimpedance sensors and optical sensors to shine a light on your skin and measure your pulse through it.

With all these fancy devices attached to your wrist, the big wrist wearable companies claim that these gadgets can now tabulate metrics like heart rate, blood oxygen level, skin temperature, perspiration, body weight and body mass.  All of this big data is crunched to give you your fitness report and at a next level to indicate if there are any health and diet issues that need your attention. How does a wearable device do that? By sending you messages on your other can’t do without device your mobile phone?

Put the tracker to the test

Researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Health and Nutrition ran a detailed study to compare 12 different wearable fitness tracker devices. 19 volunteers in the study wore all 12 wearables at the same time along with other body tracking sensors. The results of the test, published in the May issue of JAMA Internal Medicine,

The first stage of the experiment dictated that the 19 spend 24 hours in a metabolic chamber living their regular life that included eating their 3 meals working, watching TV, doing household chores, exercising and sleeping. On average, the 19 participants burned 2,093 calories during this 24-hour period. However except for 2 devices the rest of them either over evaluated our underscored the calorie burn by a couple of hundreds of calories, the difference going up to as much as 10% percent.

In the second stage, the 19 participants were let back into the real world and asked to go about living their normal day to day lives. Only they were asked to drink “doubly labelled water,” which contained rare isotopes of both hydrogen and water. The object of the test to estimate calorie burn by tracking how long it takes for those isotopes to appear in their urine.  The only must was to collect urine samples for later testing. 

On an average over the next 15 days, the 19 participants in the experiment burned 2,314 calories per day, according to the doubly labelled water urine tests.  The wearable devices yet again were mostly off the mark, giving the participants up to a 10% plus or minus all over again.  ( No specific brand names have been mentioned  here as we are not promoting or demoting any one brand  but if you want to get details of this Japan’s National Institute of Health and Nutrition test it’s in the  May 2016 issue linked here ) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26999758

fitness trackers do they really work 1
fitness trackers do they really work 1

In another University of Iowa test, 30 men and 30 women wore all eight fitness tracking devices during a 69-minute workout that included 13 different activities. They were made to run, play basketball write at a computer and play a Wii tennis game as well. Along with their wearable devices, each participant was connected to a portable metabolic analyser that the researchers from Iowa used for comparison to test the accuracy of each wearable device.

The results showed that the fitness trackers have huge differences in terms of accuracy amongst themselves. When matched up against the portable metabolic analyser only one gave consistent figures. Summing the experiment up Dr. Gregory Welk, a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University said, “people buy these activity monitors assuming they work, but some of them are not that accurate or have never been tested before, I think the key to a consumer is not so much if the activity monitor is accurate in terms of calories, but whether it’s motivational for them and keeps them accountable for  their activity in a day.”  (Details of the study and other studies on fitness trackers can be found at: ) http://www.news.iastate.edu/news/2015/08/19/activitytrackers

The two experiments above going to prove that we credit the wearable trackers with way much more precision and accuracy than they deserve. But do you know what? It doesn’t matter. The primary reason why we buy and wear these devices is not for their accurate calorie burning predictions. Most of us recognise that they may not be 100 percent accurate but that it motivates us every morning to get up and walk. In other words out fitness and health tracker is motivating to us.

The accuracy of the wearable fitness tracker really makes little difference. The point here is that it keeps us aware of our efforts towards fitness. It pulls us up if we are slacking and it gamifies our efforts.   The wearable devices can, if we so wish, connect us to friends and family and compare their fitness effort to ours. In other words, the tracker turns fitness into a real time losing and exercise game.  We are proud when we do we in our peer circle and it’s motivating if someone else in the group is doing better.

Denzil’s take

When it comes to losing weight, it is as important to watch what you eat as much as how much you exercise. Effectively counting your calorie intake is as important as your time on the treadmill. So use the fitness health tracker to give you a rough figure on walking and exercise and watch your diet as well.