Fitness Band Trackers
Fitness Band Trackers
Fitness monitoring devices have been used as a tool by researchers to assist in health research. Today fitness devices such as the fitness band tracker have become very popular amongst athletes and within the fitness industry in response to consumer demands. It is estimated that 70 million are sold each year worldwide. The concept of such devices is to provide the consumer information on physical activity e.g. how many steps they take during a day and how many calories they burn and some devices even provide data on sleep activity patterns [1-2]. In this health news article I will briefly discuss the following;
The Scientific Reliability
Comparable Band Error Ratings
Key Research Findings
1. The scientific reliability
There are many brands of fitness trackers available on the open market today. For that very reason different types of popular fitness tracker brands were compared for their reliability. The research results revealed variable differences of reliability in terms of measuring distance, physical activity and tally of calories burned including sleep activity levels [1-2].
2. The studies
To reflect normal life conditions people were asked to perform a variety of tasks for sustained periods at a time. These included sitting at a computer, playing video games (wii tennis), playing sports such as basketball and running. To help compare findings, participants wore portable metabolic analysers to assess the accuracy of each device given. Other studies selected certain models and tested the fitness tracker bands in a laboratory setting such as the Fitbit and Jawbone tracker bands [1-2].
3. Comparing band error ratings
According to the scientific reports reviewed to date below are the following results:
Table 1 Reference to Welk (2014)
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4. Key research findings
The research suggests that fitness band trackers are not all equal as they often have comparable error ratings of approximately 10-15% of reasonable accuracy (see table 1). All but one band was suggested to have a greater error above 10% when estimating the tally of calories burned. Fitness band trackers have demonstrated to be beneficial in monitoring the number of steps we take but may not be as reliable in the following; measuring the distance travelled, in sleep activity patterns or in the number of total calories we have burned [1-2].
The studies found that fitness tracker bands tend to over-estimate distances at reduced speeds and under-estimate distances at greater speeds. Thus if you are a runner, you may not likely be getting an accurate account. The researchers found that the fitness band trackers they had tested, often tended to under-estimate the tally of calories an individual burned throughout the day. Therefore the research suggests you may likely be burning more calories than your fitness band data is telling you. However researchers suggest for those individual's without a fitness band tracker, individual's may often be inclined to over-estimate their physical activity and under-estimate their number of calories they likely to have consumed. Researchers compared fitness band trackers to medical laboratory sleep tests to measure the total amount of sleep time and efficiency. The research suggests that the fitness band trackers they had tested, tend to over-estimate the data when compared to the medical laboratory sleep tests. Therefore you may be getting less rest from what your fitness band tracker is reporting to you [1-2].
5. Final thoughts
Fitness band trackers regardless of their reliability cannot always guarantee athletes and fitness users alike in reaching their optimal goals. For example we are all unique individuals, what works best for one individual may not necessarily work well for another. Some people assume fitness trackers will help them resolve their fitness activity issues; it won’t unless they make lifestyle changes and learn from their behaviour. Nevertheless, I personally believe that fitness trackers will help encourage more people towards making important lifestyle choices.
The data of studies reviewed have also demonstrated, to improve future model development and scientific research. Developers and researchers should first quantify and model the recall of errors and correct it for best results.
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Kelly R. Evenson K R (2015) Affiliated with Michelle M. Goto, Robert D. Furberg Systematic review of the validity and reliability of consumer-wearable activity trackers. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 201512:159 DOI: 10.1186/s12966-015-0314-1 http://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12966-015-0314-1
Welk G (2014) Validity of 24-h Physical Activity Recall: Physical Activity Measurement Survey journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, fitness tracker http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Citation/2014/10000/Validity_of_24_h_Physical_Activity_Recall__.18.aspx