Home / BTHCP 004: Is your Wearable Physical Activity Monitor Feeding You a Line of BS?

BTHCP 004: Is your Wearable Physical Activity Monitor Feeding You a Line of BS?

The information you are about to hear is for education purposes only.  Please consult your doctor before attempting to implement anything covered in the following episode.

In this podcast you will learn:

  1. What wearable physical activity monitors are being worn for
  2. What are they actually recording accurately
  3. What do they not do well and why you need to IGNORE certain information

Summary

What started out as tools to count our daily steps, the next generation of wearable activity monitors are doing much more.  The big trend in today’s monitors is calorie counting.  With more and more people relying on these devices to monitor their daily fitness, one needs to ask, “Just how accurate are these devices?”.

This is the question that the researchers wanted to know in today’s featured study:

Validity of Consumer-Based Physical Activity Monitors for Specific Activity Types. M.Nelson et al.
Journal:
The official Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine
Volume 48 Number 8 August 2016

Results:

Step counting was accurate in all models tested, however, the estimated calorie burn was not good at all.  They were okay at estimating calories at rest, however, when the people wearing these monitors were doing virtually any activity, all units significantly OVERESTIMATED the calories burned by a whopping 16%-40%

This can get us into serious trouble if we are relying on this data when determining how much we should eat, especially after activities!  The main issue is with the mathematical formulas or algorithms that are used to make the calculation.  They are not sophisticated enough to allow for individual variables such as health, fitness level etc.

The answer for those that really want to track their calorie burn is to purchase a unit that can actually measure ones heart rate.  Measuring heart rate to determine calorie burn is a much more reliable way to see what we are actually burning vs relying on an algorithm.

Related Links

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Validity+of+Consumer-Based+Physical+Activity+Monitors+for+Specific+Activity+Types.

https://www.fitbit.com/surge

https://jawbone.com/

https://explore.garmin.com/en-US/fenix/