A smartwatch is capable of doing many different things. For instance, they can:
- Track your heart rate
- Count how many calories you burned
- Gauge your speed
- Record recovery time
When these devices were first released in 2009, a person could not really rely on the data that was being shown. Over the years, smartwatches have become more accurate and many are only off by five percent when measuring your heart rate.
People can do the exact same workout and each will have different information about how many calories were burned. A smartwatch figures out the number of calories burned by making an estimation based on height and weight. Could this figure really be accurate?
There was a test conducted by Stanford University, with 60 volunteers. The smartwatches they tested were:
- Mio Alpha 2
- Apple Watch
- Fitbit Surge
- Samsung Gear S2
- Microsoft Band
The smartwatches were handed out to 29 men and 31 women for wearing. They all did the same exercises, which included riding stationary bikes, running, and walking on treadmills. An ECG was used on each person, to measuring their heart rate. All the data was then pulled and compared. The final outcome is that some smartwatches are much more accurate than others.
One has to wonder just how well these devices are tested for accuracy. The gist of it all is that the heart rate measures are almost precisely accurate. However, the calorie counter cannot be relied on for accuracy.
Are Multiple Trackers Better Than One?
The year was 2016 and Fitbit was being slapped with lawsuits from consumers because of it not being accurate. A reporter wanted to see for himself just how accurate the smartwatches were, so he put a bunch of them on his arms at the same time. He used:
He picked three different tests to try the watches on. He measured heart rate, distance traveled, and step counting. After doing the tests, the best conclusion he came to was that the accuracy seemed pretty close across the board.
Test 1 – Step Counting
This consisted of two different tests. The first part was walking a certain number of steps for a few hours to see if all the devices said the same thing. Unfortunately, there was around a 20% difference in what each one calculated.
In the next test, the reporter decided to verbally count each step taken, until he reached 500 total steps. When done, he looked at the devices and saw numbers as low as 446, while others showed 513 steps taken. The closest device showed 505 steps and it was the Fitbit Charge HR.
Test 2 – Measuring Heart Rate
In order for the reporter to get his heart rate up to 140 beats per minute, he hopped on one of the stationary bikes and started pedaling. The best way to check the heart rate is by finding the carotid artery and counting while looking at a watch. For accuracy purposes, he did this test two days in a row.
Again, each smartwatch was having issues. Some were behind and trying to catch up to what the heart was actually beating at, while some hit 90 and called it a day.
The closest reading to the actual 140 beats was 137. The smartwatch that got this close was the Apple Watch.
Test 3 – Distance traveled
What better way of conducting this test than by stepping on a treadmill and walking half a mile. Once again, the findings were just mind-boggling. While the reporter was taking a cruise on the treadmill, he would look at the smartwatches to see how badly they were bombing the test. The more steps he took, the more inaccuracies there were with each watch reading.
Instead of using the devices for accurate data, it might be a wise choice to use them for relative comparisons. Do not change devices when using them. Instead, pick a smartwatch and stick to it.
For complete accuracy, take a manual measurement similar to the reporter, and find out how far off your smartwatch is. If it is consistently off the same amount each time, then you know what your add-back or subtract-from number is going to be. In other words, if you manually counted 500 steps, but your smartwatch said 490 steps at each test performed, then you know your add-back number is 10. Every time you do a step count, you would add 10 steps to get the actual figure. This could also be a percentage that you may need to calculate. The point is that if you can find out the true difference between a manual count and your smartwatch count, whether it’s a step count, heart rate, or distance traveled calculation, you will be able to add or subtract that difference from the smartwatch reading to get a more accurate reading.
Looking at the results daily is a nice way of seeing how you are doing, but the real result is when you are hitting your goals on a consistent basis. Just like losing weight, it only comes off a little at a time, no matter how quickly it’s packed on! The end result is the goal, so keep on moving!