Fitness trackers: Good for motivation, terrible for accuracy

Many recreational athletes measure their performance with fitness trackers. But you should not rely on their measurements blindly. — dpa

Whether as an armband or smartwatch, fitness trackers provide many people with motivation to increase their physical activity.

However, fitness trackers’ measurements should be taken with a grain of salt, as most of them are, at best, “fantasy figures”, warns German consumer group Stiftung Warentest in a recent publication.

In just one example, the inaccuracy of the fitness trackers’ pulse measurements is alarming: Of 25 tested devices, only two smartwatches could deliver consistent values, the Apple Watch 5 and Garmin’s Forerunner 245 Music. One tracker was extremely off in its measurements, putting a test jogger’s maximum heart rate at 104 – instead of the actual value of 181 – according to the consumer group.

That manufacturer often referred to the fact that the tracker must sit very precisely on the wrist in order to give a correct result.

If you want to accurately measure your pulse, the consumer group recommended using a chest strap heart rate monitor instead.

For users who want to measure how many steps they’re taking, the testers recommend using a smartphone as a back-up, since the trackers don’t always have a way to determine their position via satellite. – dpa

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