Fitness trackers have grown in prominence as gaining insights on various physical aspects became easier than before. With sleek design and advanced technology, fitness trackers have become a boon for fitness enthusiasts to know about their body without the usage of hefty equipment or laboratories. Though these trackers are equipped with innovative technologies that offer insights on calories burnt, heart rate, steps taken, and others, the question remains whether they are accurate. If they are, what is the percentage of accuracy. If not, what is the use of investing money on them? To explore these questions, researchers conducted an experiment to determine if these fitness trackers are accurately calculating the running distance. The consumer watchdog Which? conducted a research, in which, it took measurements from 118 trackers with the help of treadmill. A distance of 26.2 miles (42 kilometers) was completed.
According to researchers, the Garmin Vivosmart 4 was the least reliable tracker. It calculated 26.2 miles when the runner ran 37 miles. Garmin outlined that it happened as the tracker did not have GPS. It explained that the marathon runners use Vivosmart 4 for its Forerunner range that has been GPS-enabled. The company described its tracker as “all-round smart fitness tracker”.
Among the eight Apple fitness trackers, its Apple Watch series 1 emerged as the most accurate tracker. It overestimated the distance by nearly 1%. On the other hand, the series 3 overestimated the distance by nearly 13%. The tracker stated that the runner completed the marathon after running 22.8 miles only. Natalie Hitchins, head of home product and services at Which?, outlined that its tests stated that the fitness trackers from many tech giants should not be tested when it comes to measuring distance travelled. Samsung Gear S2 recorded the finish point of marathon at 36.2 miles, Xiaomi Amazfit Bip at 34 miles, and Huawei Watch 2 Sport at 18.9 miles. She advised that people should do proper research before purchasing a tracker that they can rely on.
Commenting on the results, the spokesperson of Huawei explained that variations in individual runners made the difference in test results. He added that this test was conducted on a treadmill. The algorithm implemented in Huawei Watch 2 Sport measures the distance using the user’s stride length given by sensor data as the user runs at various speeds. Some of the experts agreed that the treadmill cannot be ideal for calculating the accuracy of fitness trackers. This is because the trackers rely on step-counting algorithms, instead of GPS for calculating the distance. Dr Dale Esliger, Senior Lecturer in physical activity and health at Loughborough University, outlined that the real world test should have been conducted to give accurate results for customers. He also advised that the customer should consider the metric that would be the most useful when it comes to measuring the progress.