A new study took a look at the efficiency of fitness trackers in measuring heart rates and burned calories. While such devices reported quite accurate and useful results for one, they seemed less helpful for the other.
This new research was conducted by scientists part of the Stanford University School of Medicine. Study results are available in a paper in the Journal of Personalized Medicine. The research team analyzed the performance of seven of the most popular and used fitness tracker devices. These were tested with help from a diverse group of some 60 volunteers.
The 60 participants were asked to carry out a series of exercises while wearing the fitness trackers. They had to walk, run, cycle, or similar other activities, and they had to do this at different intensities. The study team tracked their heart rate and also expended energy levels.
Then, they compared this data with one gathered using oxygen and carbon dioxide measurements as well as electrocardiograph readings. The researchers described these latter as the “gold standards” in the medical field.
Fitness Trackers: Heart Rate Check, Calories Fail?
According to the team, the comparison results were quite surprising. While heart rate measurements were “far better than expected”, the calories count was significant “way off the mark”.
The team set a 10 percent range as the accepted error rate of these home use trackers. But according to its reports, the most accurate calories counts were off by a median or around 27 percent. A least accurate such device was off by a reported 93 percent.
The researchers did not determine an exact reason behind this great difference in energy expenditure values. However, they consider that factors such as weight, height, and fitness levels, may make it hard to develop a device fit and accurate for each and all users.
Some of the makers of the devices included in the test also released statements regarding this study’s results. While one maintains its confidence in the performance of its devices, another suggests that the research team may not have made the proper user adjustments.
As it is, the research team is already moving on to ‘phase II’ of its study. In it, the participants will be wearing the devices as they go about their typical day.
“We actually want a fully portable study. So volunteers’ ECG will be portable and their energy calculation will also be done with a portable machine,” said Anna Shcherbina, one of the study co-authors.
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