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Ball State: Activity Trackers Not As Accurate As Advertised

A Fitbit activity tracker.

A new study from a research group at Ball State University shows some activity trackers aren’t as accurate as advertised.

A research team examined how well the products Fitbit’s Flex, One and Zip, and Jawbone UP24, estimate calories burned and steps taken for certain activities and activity categories.

Thirty people participated in the research, testing the devices during passive activities like lying down or using a computer, during common household activities like sweeping or doing laundry, and finally during exercise like walking, jogging or cycling.

[pullquote source=”Alex Montoye, Ball State University Researcher”]These items provide accurate measures of steps for structured activity, similar to much less expensive pedometers.[/pullquote]

“Our study found that the activity trackers we tested were simply not as accurate as many people believe,” Alex Montoye, exercise physiology professor at Ball State University, said in a statement. “These devices overestimate the calories for walking and jogging but underestimate for household activities. These items provide accurate measures of steps for structured activity, similar to much less expensive pedometers.”

The study found that activity trackers work well for counting steps while walking or running, and accurately show no steps during sedentary periods.

However, step estimates were not accurate for household chores, and all monitors severely underestimated physical activity during cycling.

While new monitors are introduced regularly, Montoye said little research has evaluated their ability to accurately measure variable such as heart rate, sleep duration and/or quality.

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