Fitness Trackers Increase Walking Benefits But Not Weight Loss
Many of my friends are walking more and reaping the benefits from it. These new wrists worn or phone application fitness tracking devices have inspired many to get out and walk more. The new social competition is to track your steps and challenge friends and co-workers for prizes. One couple became so competitive they got into a little spat over it. Other than that’s it’s been a great trend because there are many walking benefits including increased strength, improved balance and cardiovascular conditioning.
Whatever gets people moving is good. However, it depends on how you’re using these machines. I’ve been very skeptical about the accuracy of fitness trackers that not only count what “might” be considered steps, but also heart rate and calories burned. Now my concerns have been justified. I have a very low heart rate and machines that measure blood pressure have a hard time accurately checking mine. I can take my blood pressure three times in a row and the measurement can be vastly different each time. So that has lead me to question how accurate a $20 wrist worn device could be.
Another reason I’ve been skeptical is because people exercising with me for an hour will tell me their device says they’ve burned 1000 calories. I know that’s very hard to do if you weigh less than 200 pounds and haven’t been executing intense energy the whole time.
It seems people have been taking the results from their trackers to heart, so to speak and bringing the data to their physicians for advice.
That prompted doctors at Stanford University Medical Center to study the accuracy of some of these devices and what they found confirms a lot of what I suspected. The trackers are good at monitoring the heart rate but they are not good at measuring the amount of expended energy or calories burned.
They studied some premium devices including the AppleWatch, Basis Peak (version 1), Fitbit Surge, Microsoft Band, Mio Alpha 2, Samsung Gear S2 and PulseOn. They compared them against the heart rate measurements of an electro-cardiogram. Then tested them on gauging calorie expenditure by measuring oxygen and carbon dioxide in participants’ breath, the gold standard for calculating metabolism. The researchers found the devices were mostly accurate on measuring the heart rate but when it came to measuring calorie expenditure they were wrong 20 to 93 percent of the time. The study was published in the Journal of Personalized Medicine.
The researchers said this could be a problem when people are trying to lose weight by tracking their calories with these devices. People probably sabotaged themselves by eating more than they should because they thought they burned more calories than they actually did.
To my surprise you can rely on these gadgets for monitoring your heart rate, which is good if you’re trying to stay in a zone for burning fat.
Your fat burning zone is when you burn the most energy from stored fat and is when you’re at 60-70 percent of your maximum heart rate (A VO2 Max Test is the best way to find yours).
What I’ve always thought these devices were best for is measuring against yourself. For example, you could see how many calories it says you burned walking for an hour. For future walking benefis you could try to beat that number.
The best outcome are the walking benefits and the motivation the trackers are giving people.
As I stated at the beginning they have started a new trend of counting steps and receiving the many walking benefits. I love being a good influence on others when it comes to fitness. If you haven’t already, challenge some people you know to track daily steps and see who can do the most. Have everyone throw a few bucks into the pot and give it all to the winner. Just remember it’s all in fun and fitness! Be sure to check with your doctor about how you can best use your tracking device.
Journal of Personalized Medicine: http://www.mdpi.com/2075-4426/7/2/3/htm
Best Pedometers: http://www.livescience.com/43759-best-pedometers.html