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Activity Trackers Are Better At Measuring Some Metrics Over Others

First Posted: Dec 24, 2015 01:21 AM EST

Physical activity trackers can help measure certain health activities, like exercise, sleep and more. However, a new study shows that some metrics are easier to measure than others.

"Wearable devices that track physical activity, sleep and other behaviors are growing significantly in popularity," said Robert Furberg, Ph.D., senior clinical informaticist at RTI International and co-author of the study, in a news release. "We conducted this review to understand how accurate these devices are."

During the study, researchers examined a systemic review of 22 published articles researching the ability of the activity trackers Fitbit and Jawbone, in order to measure steps, calories, distance, physical activity and sleep.

Using several different comparison measures, other researchers found that both tracker brands under- and under-estimated calories used, and over-estimated total sleep time; the same was true for tracking physical activity. One study in particular showed that the some devices tended to over-estimate slower speeds and under-estimate faster speeds.

To make sure that trackers work as accurate as possible, researchers suggest the following, courtesy of the release:

-Wear the tracker in the same position each day.

-Enter personal details like height and weight correctly at initial set-up, and update if there is significant change in weight.

-If the tracker provides these options, then: Correctly calibrate the length of a walking stride; add more information via the device's journal function; and interact with the sleep mode settings.

The study is published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

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