Which Physical Activity Tracker Is Best for Counting Calories?

Which Physical Activity Tracker Is Best for Counting Calories?

As health trackers continue to gain popularity, the accuracy of readings from various devices continues to come under scrutiny. Now, a new study, just published in the March issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, has added some additional data to the discussion.

As part of the research, investigators examined eight devices for accuracy in estimating energy expenditure (which is science speak for “calories burned). The devices included were: The BodyMedia FIT and the NikeFuel armbands; the DirectLifemonitor; the Omron HJ-720IT; the Fitbit One; the Fitbit Zip; the Fitbit Flex; the Jawbone UP24; the Basis B1 Band Monitor and the ActiGraph.

All of the monitors included do more than track calories, of course, but calories burned was the primary concern of the study, so that’s what the paper largely focuses on.

Designing the Study

To conduct the comparison, researchers tracked 60 healthy men and women while they each completed a 69-minute routine. Each routine began with lying on a bed for 10 minutes to establish baseline heart rate numbers, and then moved into three household activities, three sedentary activities and four exercises, such as jogging. Each section was performed for five minutes, with increasing intensity across the 69-minute period, at a pace set by the test subject.

All eight trackers were worn by the participants at once, to create apples-to-apples accuracy comparisons. (For the curious, Here’s a description from the study on how to wear eight trackers at once: “The monitors included the BodyMedia FIT armband worn on the left arm, the DirectLife monitor around the neck, the Fitbit One, the Fitbit Zip, and the ActiGraph worn on the belt, as well as the Jawbone Up and Basis B1 Band monitor on the wrist.”)

In the end, some good news: All eight devices showed relatively similar caloric outputs and were mostly identical device to device. The devices, interestingly enough, were shown to be more consistently accurate at measuring energy expenditure during sedentary activities, rather than the more-intense exercises. All were shown to have accuracy for within 10 percent of counted steps, as well.

The Bottom Line

fitness tracker data counting calories accuracy

All in all, the devices provide accurate step measurements, researchers said. But based on the results of the study, it might be a good idea to approach caloric estimates cautiously, and assume that the number on your app is within a 10 percent plus-or-minus range of the accurate figure. This is a negligible amount for the average weekend warrior — fifty calories burned here or there won’t make or break a weight loss or fitness plan for most of us — so, in the end, we say: Track on.

TELL US: How has counting calories with your device helped improve your fitness?

READ  Fitness Tracker Competitions are the Answer to Your Missing Motivation

(h/t suppversity.blogspot.com)

Cover photo:flickr.com photos curiouslee

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