Are Fitness Bands Accurate?

1600x900q80Wearable fitness devices are all the rage. By attaching the device to your body, key performance measures are monitored. A number of such products are flooding the market – but do the fitness bands measure up and are they accurate?

According to researchers from Iowa State University, not all fitness bands are created equal.

For their study, researchers recruited 30 men and 30 women and had them wear eight popular devices through 13 difference activities including computer work, Wii tennis, basketball and running. By wearing the devices through these various activities, the researchers aimed to simulate real world conditions.

The data from each device was then compared to the data from a portable metabolic analyzer to gauge accuracy. Most of the devices were reasonably accurate and had a margin of error less than 15%. Here’s what they found:

  • The BodyMedia FIT (most accurate): 9.3% error rating
  • The Fitbit Zip: 10.1% error rating
  • Fitbit One: 10.4% error rating
  • Jawbone Up: 12.2% error rating
  • Actigraph: 12.6% error rating
  • Directlife: 12.8% error rating
  • Nike Fuel Band: 13.0% error rating
  • Basis Band: 23.5% error rating

The researchers noted that wearable fitness devices aren’t some magic solution. In and of themselves, they don’t help people achieve fitness goals. To achieve fitness goals, changes in behavior are required – and wearable devices are merely a tool in helping to measure those changes.

In other words, measuring how many steps you took isn’t the same thing as taking more steps.

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  1. Davey,

    I think you’re missing the big point of these devices. They encourage healthy activities. I for one (and most of friends who have these) find the information they provide as a motivating factor that helps get me to my fitness goals and it strongly encourages healthy behavior modification. For example, I walk a lot, but before I had my Fitbit, I was fooling myself about how much I walked. Since I had nothing to dispute me I figure my walking to and from work and around in the day was easily 10k steps a day – enter Fitbit, it was only about 6-7k steps. So what do I do with this information? I walk more because I am short of my goal. If I am close to home and I am still say 1k short of my 10k, I walk around the block. Further the social aspect of sharing your steps with friends, makes it more competitive to be on top of the leader board.

    All that coupled with the calorie burn tracking of other activities (Cycling, Swimming, etc) and the tracking of food (calorie) intake gives me the information to make better choices and reach my goals.

    Please revisit this topic, looking at from this perspective, and hopefully you will see the benefits these devices truly offer.

    All the best,

    • I agree with Chris. I don’t think anyone would actually believe that having a Jawbone makes you more fit or helps you in any other way except that it provides you more information. I feel like it’s motivating and positive reenforcement.. It’s not the answer to being fit. Glad you brought this up!

  2. I like my body media fit band, though it’s not the most attractive of them. I began wearing it as a way to track what my body is doing so I can adjust diet, etc accordingly. Turns out with working two jobs as a server, I pretty much burn what an athlete burns on a daily basis. However, I do take issue with the software. In analyzing my body and habits, it has recommended I intake 3800 calories a day given the calorie burn I do on a nearly daily basis. This is far too high, and following direction, I gained 15 pounds fairly quickly.
    So I threw its recommendations out the window and went back to an 1800-2200 calorie a day diet and the excess weight I put on is slowly coming off.

  3. Chris is absolutely on target. Plus, for some the bands function as a string around you finger. Just a reminder to eat healthier, take the stairs instead of the elevator and stay focused on your goals.