Is Your Fitness Tracker Damaging Your Fitness Results?

As a calorie watcher you probably swear by your fitness trackers. Most people rely on them to know exactly when to chug in a few more glasses of beer or when to get that second portion of bacon and cheese. The device said you have burnt excess calories and thus, you are delighted to pat yourself on the back. Unfortunately, recent reports suggest that you may be doing yourself a disservice.

The study by The Stanford University School of Medicine showed that fitness trackers are great at measuring heart rates but are not quite good enough if you are looking to measure burnt calories.

The research analysed data from seven different wrist-worn fitness trackers on 60 individuals who were engaged in a variety of physical activities ranging from walking to cycling while wearing the trackers. Six out of the seven devices checked had a 5% margin for error when it came to tracking heart rate. The error rate for checking calorie count, however, was above 20%. One of the devices, got the figures wrong by a massive 93%.

Researchers expressed concerns about the results because people were basing important decisions like nutrition and fitness training on the readings delivered by these fitness trackers. Since the data for calorie count is so hit and miss with the different trackers, researchers say it would be a mistake to continue making decisions based on them, for anyone that is serious about staying healthy and hitting their fitness targets.

Why Was the Data Wildly Off?

Each of the devices have their own algorithms, kept secret by the companies. It was therefore, not easy for researchers to accurately pinpoint the reasons for the figures that were so wide off the mark. On the surface though, experts agree that all results are based on assumptions that are too simplistic.

It is difficult to accurately create an algorithm that would accurately fit different people. Calorie counts are dependent on important details like height and weight as well as the current fitness levels of the individual in question. The research team intends to do an in-depth analysis of the different trackers, taking note of how they function in day to day use, from the  treadmill to jogging out on the streets.

For now, the advice is to take calorie count on your fitness tracker with a pinch of salt. Does this mean they are ultimately useless? Not really. They can still serve purposes such as measuring heart rate, steps walked in a day and more. However, to ensure optimal results with your fitness tracker, there are several things you should do.

Make Sure it is Calibrated

Regardless of the kind of fitness tracker you have purchased, the first thing you should do is calibration. This is important if you want to ensure that results generated for you are close to the actuals. Keep in mind the fact that different people have different strides, posture etc. Ensuring that your fitness tracker is calibrated to your personal information is your first step to getting an accurate measurement of important metrics.

Do Not Wear on Your Dominant Hand

This is of course applicable for wrist worn fitness trackers. If you are right-handed, wear your fitness tracker on the left and vice versa. This will give more accurate results than when you wear it on the hand that gets the most activity over the course of a day.

Synchronise With Quality Fitness Apps

There is a deluge of fitness apps in the major app stores. Some of them work specifically with certain fitness trackers while others allow you to combine the data from different fitness apps into one hub. Most of the fitness apps are equipped to analyse your fitness tracker data and deliver a more robust reading, sometimes showing metrics that are not covered on the original fitness tracker app.

Use it as Motivation

 Fitness trackers allow you to become a part of different fitness communities. Using them, you can share your fitness results and compete healthily against others to better these results. This adds some fun to an otherwise tedious process and makes it easier for you to look forward to fitness training sessions.

Take Note of Your Fitness Activities

 Fitness trackers are not one-size fits all. To get the closest results, you need to tell the fitness tracker what you are doing. Tell it the form of exercise by choosing the right one in the provided selection. Most standard fitness trackers have provisions in place for distinguishing between various forms of exercise such as swimming, bike riding, yoga, walking, running, jogging and more. If you don’t state the form of exercise, most fitness trackers will count all exercise as walking by default leading to highly skewed results.

Don’t Follow The Tracker Blindly

This is the focal point of this piece. Blind following of fitness trackers will lead to less than optimal results. If the fitness tracker says you should walk 10,000 steps a day, you need to consider your situation. If you are on your feet for the most part of the day, consider increasing the goal to 20,000 steps. If you work on a desk, 5,000 words will be a more realistic target. Keep in mind the fact that fitness goals are not fixed in stone. Even the universally acclaimed 10,000 step goal has been debunked time and again. The important thing is to have some form of fitness goals and stick to them.