By Jonathon Stavres MS, ACSM-EP-C
According to the CDC, 34.9 % of U.S. adults and 17% of U.S. children are overweight or obese, which costs American’s approximately 147 billion dollars annually. This indicates just how impactful physical inactivity is on the U.S. population and economy.
Recently, there has been an enhanced focus on increased physical activity in and out of the workplace. This has lead to, among other things, the development of wearable physical activity trackers.
Wearable physical activity trackers, such as the FitBit, MOVband, and Nike+ FuelBand estimate physical activity by using different technologies such as accelerometry and photoplethysmography. However, before purchasing one these devices, it is important to know which is right for you.
Which Fitness Tracker is the most reliable and accurate?
When determining the validity of a fitness tracker, it is generally compared against a research grade accelerometer. Accelerometers, such as the ActiGraph, are considered the most reliable and accurate activity trackers.
The fitness trackers are also compared to actual step counts at different speeds of walking and running. Those two methods determine accuracy, while reliability is assessed by a participant wearing two of the same devices during an activity, often walking. Similar results indicate good reliability.
A study by Kooiman et al. (2015) examined the accuracy and reliability of 10 different activity trackers (Lumoback, Fitbit Flex, Jawbone Up, Nike+ FuelBand SE, Misfit Shine, Withings Pulse, Fitbit Zip, Omron, HJ-203, Yamax Digiwalker SW-200, and the Moves app) in a laboratory and a free living condition.
Results from this study indicated that most of the activity trackers were relatively accurate; however, the Fitbit Zip stood out as the most valid, while the Nike+ FuelBand and the Moves App performed the poorest.
Wearable Fitness Trackers may enhance motivation
Another benefit of wearable fitness trackers is the enhanced motivation to perform physical activity. There is a body of research that suggests that using physical activity trackers can elicit an increase in daily physical activity.
A study by Cadmus-Bertram, et. al (2015) examined the efficacy of a Fitbit-based physical activity intervention in a group of twenty-six women compared to a group of twenty-five control subjects. In this intervention, participants used the Fitbit, a web-based tracking program, and an instructional session; the control group used a pedometer.
All participants were asked to perform the American College of Sports Medicine’s suggested 150 min/week of moderate to vigorous physical activity. At the end of the sixteen- week study period, the Fitbit group exhibited significant improvements in moderate to vigorous physical activity and steps compared to the control group. The participants also indicated a high satisfaction with the Fitbit.
While this data focuses mainly on the Fitbit, a more comprehensive body of research indicates that any accurate and reliable fitness tracker may be an easy way to not only track your daily activity, but also to add extra motivation for increasing daily physical activity.
*For more examples of exercises look under Multimedia-VDF Exercise Tips
**Consult with a physician and/or medical healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen
Cadmus-Bertram, L. A., Marcus, B. H., Patterson, R. E., Parker, B. A., & Morey, B. L. (2015). Randomized Trial of a Fitbit-Based Physical Activity Intervention for Women. Am J Prev Med, 49(3), 414-418. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2015.01.020
Kooiman, T. J., Dontje, M. L., Sprenger, S. R., Krijnen, W. P., van der Schans, C. P., & de Groot, M. (2015). Reliability and validity of ten consumer activity trackers. BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil, 7, 24. doi: 10.1186/s13102-015-0018-5
Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Kit, B. K., & Flegal, K. M. (2014). PRevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the united states, 2011-2012. JAMA, 311(8), 806-814. doi: 10.1001/jama.2014.732