Tags: fitness trackers | apple watch | fitbit | heart monitors

Fitness Trackers Often Inaccurate: Study

Fitness Trackers Often Inaccurate: Study

(Dreamtsime)

By    |   Tuesday, 25 October 2016 02:31 PM

It turns out those fitness gadgets millions rely on for heart rate aren't very accurate — and that could be dangerous, says a new study published in JAMA Cardiology. Moreover, they lose accuracy at critical times — during strenuous workouts.

Researchers at the Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic tested four fitness trackers (the Apple Watch, Mio Fuse, Fitbit Charge HR, and Basis Peak) on 50 volunteers. The study participants hit the treadmill at various speeds — 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 miles per hour. All were wired to an electrocardiogram for accurate readings while they exercised.

The Apple Watch and the Mio Fuse were the most accurate, researchers report, matching the EKG 91 percent of the time. The Fitbit Charge HR held its own, matching the EKG 84 percent of the time, and the Basis Peak was accurate 83 percent of the time.

Researchers reported that during peak strain, the fitness trackers lost accuracy. “At rest, all of the monitors did an acceptable job,” study co-author Gordon Blackburn said. “As the intensity of the exercise went up, we saw more and more variability in the accuracy.” The Fitbit tended to underestimate heart rate, while the Basis Peak overestimated it.

At around 100 beats per minute, accuracy began to tread water, and became very inconsistent above 130 and 140 beats per minute, Blackburn said. Given that these are target ranges for healthy people, this inaccuracy presents a real problem. “Patients come in with data and they say, ‘I’m exercising and my heart rate is going sky high,’ or ‘I can’t get into the zone’ and they’re getting frustrated,” he says. “The people developing these trackers say it’s not a medical technology, but that message isn’t being absorbed by users. And we’re caught in the middle when they come into the office presenting data and we have to convince them there is significant error.”

The problem, the researchers found, is that when you exercise vigorously, your arms tend to swing. Since fitness trackers measure heart rate using sensors that detect the pulse through the skin on your wrist, up and down sliding of the devices makes the readings less accurate. Researchers also determined that some of the models seemed to lose connection when the sensors would get too far from the skin.

By far, the greatest risk is when a tracker underestimates heart rate. For that reason, Fitbit is being sued for as part of a class action lawsuit. Underpegging can lead people to push themselves beyond what’s healthy, especially if they’re not in great shape. Conversely, high readings can make people slow down when there is no need to — potentially barring them from reaching healthy goals.

For its part, Fitbit emphasized that the trackers are not meant to be medical devices, and that the company tested its trackers internally and they had an average error of less than 6 beats per minute, according to Verge online.

 

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It turns out those fitness gadgets millions rely on for heart rate aren't very accurate — and that could be dangerous, says a new study published in JAMA Cardiology. Moreover, they lose accuracy at critical times — during strenuous workouts.
fitness trackers, apple watch, fitbit, heart monitors
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2016-31-25
Tuesday, 25 October 2016 02:31 PM
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