The truth about fitness trackers

Your fitness tracker might not be doing you much good.

They’ve become a popular gift for people across the country and are seen on the wrists of the exercise-obsessed everywhere, but do fitness trackers actually work?

Not really, according to new research out of the US.

Researchers from the Stanford University Medical Centre analysed seven different trackers and found that while most maintained a near accurate reading for heart rate measurement, they failed when it came to counting calorie expenditure.

The team evaluated the Apple Watch, Basis Peak, Fitbit Surge, Microsoft Band, Mio Alpha 2, PulseOn and the Samsung Gear S2 and found that skin colour and body mass index both affected the reading on the tracker, giving different results for different people.

While six out of the seven trackers produced a heart rate reading within 5 per cent accuracy, they were off by about 27 per cent when it came to monitoring energy expenditure – or calories burned.

“People are basing life decisions on the data provided by these devices,” said Euan Ashley, professor of cardiovascular medicine, genetics and biomedical data science at Stanford.

“But consumer devices aren’t held to the same standards as medical-grade devices, and it’s hard for doctors to know what to make of heart-rate data and other data from a patient’s wearable device, he said.

The findings, published in the Journal of Personalized Medicine, are disappointing for those who have been relying on the trackers to help them achieve their weight loss goals.

Last year it was reported that 48 per cent of Australians were wearing fitness bands, with numbers expected to grow in 2017.

Ashley and his team concluded that while trackers are useful for those who need to closely monitor their heart rate, they are defunct for those trying to count calories.

Do you wear a fitness tracker? How have you found it?

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