Fitness tracker/band

Research: Is your fitness tracker accurate? How it works? What study says?

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Do you trust on the readings of your fitness tracker or smart watch then you need to know how it tracks those readings. But, is the data accurate? Let’s check what research study says about fitness tracker. These facts will empower you to take right decision for your health. People become more conscious about their health and technology helps to track their health goals.

Fitness band

Read also:

9 best ways to be fit without Gym

How to easily calculate your body fat percentage

Smart watches and fitness bands are increasing in demand due to many advantages. It is easy to wear, small, lightweight and many more. Many people use it for their health tracking in many ways like walking distance, steps, calories, heart rate, blood pressure, sleep monitoring and many other things.

But, do you know ‘HOW’ smart watches or fitness bands track our fitness.

Here in this article, I will talk about the technical concept of Smart watch and fitness tracker to track our health related parameters.

Is there any research done on fitness trackers?

Yes, there are researches has already been done on these fitness bands and many are still going on.

A research has been done on fitness trackers which measure heart rate and calorie burned titled as “Fitness trackers accurately measure heart rate but not calories burned”,

“People are basing life decisions on the data provided by these devices,” said Euan Ashley, D Phil, FRCP, professor of cardiovascular medicine, of genetics and of biomedical data science at Stanford.

“But, consumer devices aren’t held to the same standards as medical-grade devices, and it’s hard for doctors to know what to make of heart-rate data and other data from a patient’s wearable device”, he said.

Health tracking parameters:

1. Steps count

It is really amazing to know how much distance you have walked in a day or any particular time. You set your target and wants to complete on daily basis. So, you must know how your each steps are counted.

Accelerometer is the tracking sensor responsible for it. This sensor analyzes your movement in different axis like vertical, horizontal or no movement. However, it tracks the acceleration force and orientation of the device on your wrist. It generates the data which converted in the form of numbers and shows you the count.

There might be differences between different devices depending upon algorithm and software programming.

Is it accurate:

It can not be 100% accurate because movements varies time to time and the sensor might not capture it as real. Also, different software algorithm tracks our movements in different ways. So, you can take a general idea but do not trust it blindly.

2. Heart rate measurement

This is an important activity because if it shows you wrong information then you might get a real increase in your heart rate. 😉 

You may have noticed a light at the back side of your fitness tracker.

What it does?

This light is used to measure your heart rate with a technique called as Photoplethysmography (PPG) and work as optical heart rate monitor.

How does it work?

Actually the LED passes through your skin and the optical sensor evaluate the light that bounces back mostly in ulnar artery. The fluctuations in the level of light is recorded and converted into your heart rate by in-built software.

New technology includes Bioimpedance sensors for a better tracking.

Is it accurate:

Again its a matter of software application. But, if you compare with the standard medical devices then it can not be matched with low quality fitness trackers.

As heart rate is a sensitive reading so you should consult with your doctor before taking any decision based on this reading.

3. Sweating

Smart watch

You sweat whenever you do exercise or other physical activity. This results into sweating which makes our skin a better conductor of electricity.  Skin conductance is an important bio signal and measured by Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) sensor

The same sensor has been used to measure stress condition also. Read here.

Fitness band tracks the sweating patterns including duration, amount and timing. It helps in tracking the health data in a better way. This combines with the accelerometer to know if this occurred due to walking, running or any different kind of activity. On this basis bands may suggest you an exercise.

Is it accurate:

There are many factors related to your exercise type, routine and pattern. A fitness band can not identify all the necessary information to suggest you a suitable exercise for you. Better you go with your trainer and start doing exercise under the supervision.

4. UV sensors

This is just to sense the UV rays around you and to warn you if you are absorbing harmful amount of UV rays.

Actimetry sensor is a unit usually in a fitness tracker worn on the wrist. The movements the actigraph unit undergoes are continually recorded and also measure light exposure. The data can be later read by a software and analysed. In some brands of sensors the data are transmitted and analysed in real-time.

Is it accurate:

Absorption of UV rays depend upon your skin type and the area of your body exposed. However, a fitness band only can track about the light fall upon it.

Final verdict:

Companies are researching more on tracking our health with the help of different fitness trackers and smart watches. But, health data is not up to the mark when calibrated with the standard medical devices used in medical practices and clinical studies.

Yes, fitness trackers can give you an idea about your health, but you should not blindly trust on them. Surprisingly, people are so obsessed about it which might be due to marketing strategy or their own interest.

There are a lot of psychological decisions which can be used by companies. Read more about it in this article.

Hope you like the information given in this article. Share with your all the friends who are blindly trusting on these devices.

Spread the awareness.

Vinay Dubey

A Health care professional and Pharmacologist with an aim of sharing my knowledge about health and lifestyle to everyone. Specially, I want to empower people from non medical background, with the knowledge that how daily lifestyle and medicines can affects their health. Also, to let them know how they can play an important role in the life cycle of a medicine.

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