Don't Trust Your Fitbit

Don't Trust Your Fitbit

Why you should care

Because we’re becoming increasingly attached to our wearables — but are they as smart as we think they are?

Fitness freaks, listen up: Your activity tracker is not as accurate as you think it is.

Researchers at Iowa State University tested eight different activity monitors to see just how accurate each model really is. They had 30 men and 30 women wear all the devices — as well as a portable metabolic analyzer as the comparison — during a 69-minute activity session, which included everything from writing at a computer to running to playing Wii tennis.

The result? Most trackers were reasonably accurate, their calories-burned estimates landing within 10 to 15 percent of the actual number. But the study did reveal that some models are more accurate than others. Choosing a tracker shouldn’t be about which one looks the coolest; function is what matters.

The rankings by error rating:

  1. BodyMedia FIT: 9.3 percent
  2. Fitbit Zip: 10.1 percent
  3. Fitbit One: 10.4 percent
  4. Jawbone Up: 12.2 percent
  5. ActiGraph: 12.6 percent
  6. Directlife: 12.8 percent
  7. Nike FuelBand: 13 percent
  8. Basis Band: 23.5 percent

The Basis Band was clearly the outlier in the study. But before you run to buy any of these, here’s the grand caveat: Iowa State University professor of kinesiology Gregory Welk tells us these devices were never going to solve your exercise problem in the first place.

“A $25 pedometer is as good of a behavior-change tool as a Fitbit,” he says.

Plus, the researchers said people often overestimate their own activity levels. Smart monitors can step in to tell us what’s closer to the truth. No more lying about that 5K you supposedly ran.

But the craze isn’t over yet, which means we can probably count on the technology improving. Just last week, Apple announced that its upcoming iOS 8 mobile operating system will arrive on our iDevices with a health app. The tech leader also created HealthKit, a tool for developers that will help health and fitness apps work together.

Whatever the fitness gadgets we’re sporting today or five years from now, the mantra never changes: Keep moving, friends. Keep moving.

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