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Activity trackers have become a popular way to measure fitness levels and overall health. But with technology comes questions about accuracy. Are fitness trackers accurate, and more specifically, how accurate are they for measuring heart rate? Let’s look at what the experts say.
When it comes to measuring heart rate with a fitness tracker, accuracy can vary depending on the model and the sensors used. According to the Boston Globe, accuracy can range from marginal to impressive. Different models use different sensors, and this can affect accuracy. Some trackers use simple optical LEDs to measure heart rate, while more accurate models use additional electrocardiogram (ECG) sensors.
Reviews from Experts
Dr. Arne Rohdewald of the German Sports University in Cologne, Germany tested fitness trackers from the well-known brands Garmin, Polar, and Fitbit, among others. He found that the devices generally had a “margin of error” of approximately 5–7% in comparison to clinical measurements from an electrocardiogram machine. While this may seem like a large margin, Dr. Rohdewald notes that for fitness trackers, this is still considered “quite accurate” for the everyday user.
Dr. Rohdewald’s test also found that while all devices performed acceptably at rest, accuracy varied depending on the wearer’s activity. For example, the Polar device was more accurate during activities such as running and cycling, while the Basis device performed better during swimming.
At the end of the day, the accuracy of fitness trackers will vary from device to device. Users should research different models, keeping an eye out for those that employ additional sensors and features. Keep in mind that even if a device is highly accurate, it may not be suitable for all activities, so read reviews closely to find out what type of activities each device is best suited for.
All in all, fitness trackers are a valuable tool for tracking physical activity and fitness levels. While they are not as accurate as a medical-grade device, they still provide a reasonably accurate measure of heart rate for the everyday user. Ultimately, it’s important to do your research and select the device that is right for your specific needs.