To wear a Fitness Tracker or to not wear a Fitness Tracker…that is the question. With the fitness wearable industry exploding, we decided to take a closer look at if it’s worth all the hype.
First, let’s consider why someone would wear a fitness tracker. For starters, most people purchase them to track their activity levels, steps, and maybe heart rate tracking. Some of the higher end trackers will record sleep patterns, HRV, Estimated Calorie expenditure, and more. All of these options are great for someone looking to track their activity level on a day to day basis. In terms of budget, most watches will hold a majority of these features. The major cut off or upscale options include the heart rate monitoring option, which if you can afford, we recommend opting for it.
So with all this tracking, just how accurate can the wearable be? In most studies, it depends on the feature so we will break it apart by feature.
Daily Steps – Overall, very accurate. Studies have shown that the biggest discrepancies are with people who walk very slow or have an awkward gait. Wearing the tracker on your wrist can be part of the problem, while you should wear the tracker on your non-dominant wrist it can still lead to inaccurate counts. The most accurate way to track steps is a wearable on or around the hips.
Caloric expenditure – Most wearables are not well equipped to properly record this metric. Calories burned is so much more than just how long you worked out. To get a true prediction of calories burned, you would need the most accurate heart rate monitoring system and to wear it all day long. Long story short – I wouldn’t put a lot of trust in calories burned. Oftentimes, it is overestimated and folks think they can eat more when in reality it’s just not the case.
Heart Rate Monitoring – Studies have shown that this feature can be 20 bpm higher or lower at any given time. In terms of 100% accuracy, I wouldn’t solely rely on the tracker. However, this comes with an asterisk. It can be a good idea for someone leisurely training or has a high resting heart rate as you can check in with yourself to get a rough idea where you are while training. Those performance training should stick to wearing a chest monitor for the most accurate reading.
So are they worth the hype? Well I’ll let you decide. In some cases, trackers can become more of an unhealthy obsession than a benefit. We have had clients that feel they need to close their move ring and not really know what that means. And since the accuracy is in question, we would need to see major updates to how reliable the tracking is before having 100% trust in the trackers.
What appears to be the best overall fitness tracker for the average person is the Apple Watch. It gives you a great baseline of information including HR, RHR, Activity Levels, Standing Hours & more. For those looking for more performance, Whoop is hands down the best in the marketplace. It appears to be the most accurate, tracks next level metrics like sleep quality, HRV and respiratory strain.
Most importantly, focus on how you feel and love your workout. These things matter more than tracking the actual metrics themselves.