If you are an active person that enjoys physical activities, most likely you have encountered some of the gadgets to track your sports performance. It is important to keep track of your heart rate and also performance. But how accurate they really are?
As it turns out, these gadgets might not be so accurate as everyone has thought. Some specialists even suggest that they might be dangerous. What is even more disturbing is that these trackers lose their accuracy at times of critical need- during intensive workouts.
A research was carried out that included 50 volunteers. Researchers tested out 4 different fitness trackers- Apple Watch, Mio Fuse, Fitbit Charge HR and Basis Peak. The volunteers were then asked to run on a treadmill in various speat- at 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 miles per hour. All participants were wired to an electrocardiograph to do accurate readings while they were exercising.
Results found that Apple Watch and Mio Fuse were the most accurate of the four gadgets, and they matched the ECG for 91% of the time. The Fitbit Charge HR matched ECG reports at 84%, whereas the Basis Peak was accurate 83% of the time.
Researchers also found, that the trackers lost their accuracy during the most intensive part of the workout. When the intensity goes up, the accuracy of these trackers becomes variable. For example, Fitbit underestimated the heart rate, whereas Basis Peak showed higher heart rate than the actual.
The target heat rate range while exercising for healthy people ranges between 100 and 140 beats per minute. The gadgets used in the study started to become inconsistent at 100 beats per minute, but their readings where completely inaccurate at 130-140 beats per minute. Researchers stress, that inaccuracy at this heart rate can be very dangerous. Many people seek for medical help, because they believe that their heart rate is going sky high while exercising. At the same time, companies producing the technology keep reminding their clients that sports trackers are not medical equipment.
One of the problems researchers observed is that trackers seem to lose their accuracy because of the movement of the arms while running, as well as loosing contact with the skin if the bracelet gets too loose.
The greatest risk presents when the tracker underestimates the heart rate. Usually when seeing increased heart rate people will lower the pace. If the reading shows lower heart rate than in reality, it can lead to serious health issues.
Fitbit issued a statement, that the company´s internal test of trackers showed an average error of 6 beats per minute. The company is actually being sued as a part of class action lawsuit. Still the company stresses, that fitness trackers are not medical devices and should be used with caution.