Everywhere you go, the market is flooded with Fitness Trackers as everyone from athletes to beginners try to make sure they are on target with their goals. However, with this current trend, has anyone stopped to consider if they are in fact accurate, efficient or even healthy?

Which Fitness Trackers Work and Which Fall Short of the Mark?

First of all, I would like to say that as a Certified Personal Trainer, I am a fan of anything that helps my clients to feel motivated and gets them to achieve their goals. In my opinion, with having worked with hundreds of clients, the easier to use the better for beginners; leave the complicated trackers for the advanced athletes. That being said, there does need to be a guideline for Fitness Tracker accuracy for them to keep you on track. Keep in mind that to truly track your activity and ensure you are following an accurate program, it is important to stay within a specific heart rate zone. Make sure any tracker that you purchase has that ability otherwise move on to your next selection. So then, which Fitness Trackers work and which fall short of the mark?

Let’s take a look at some of the more popular Fitness Trackers’ benefits and pitfalls. There seems to be a recurrent few that people choose so the top 3 brands that I see being used in gym facilities will be discussed. Each of these fitness trackers come with a variety of models, but with options comes uncertainty. A few of their features will be outlined so that you can decide which one would be right for you and your activities.

Fitness Trackers

  • FitBit – models include the Blaze, Alta, Surge, Charge (HR), Flex, One and Zip.
  • The Fitbit Blaze, Surge and Charge HR all keep track of your activity and heart rate during exercise. The rest of their selection will track your steps or activity depending on the model but not your heart rate. They will also track sleep patterns. Depending on the model you will be able to track other sports via the app on your phone. They will sync wirelessly to your phone. The cost ranges from $69.95 to $329.95 on the Fitbit Website. According to an Iowa State University study, the FitBit Flex was off by slightly less than 20%.
  • Jawbone UP  – models include the UP move, UP2, UP3
  • The UP3 Fitness Tracker is the only model that tracks resting and passive heart rate. They all have food logs and activity tracking. Only the UP2 and 3 have the ability to track sleep patterns. They will sync wirelessly to your phone. The cost ranges from $49.99 to $179.99 on the Jawbone Website. According to an Iowa State University study, the Jawbone was off by slightly less than 20%.
  • Polar – models include the Loop, A300, Loop 2, Loop Crystal, A360
  • All of the Polar models track heart rate and heart rate max. It also tracks your activity, steps and sleep. As an added bonus the Polar Fitness Trackers also have inactivity alerts, an alarm will go off if you are sedentary for extended periods of time. They will sync wirelessly to your phone. The cost ranges from $119.99 to $274.99. According to an Iowa State University study, the Polar Fitness Tracker was off the most at 40%.

Well Why Wear One if They Aren’t 100% Accurate?

These Fitness Trackers worth comes not from their accuracy but from little differences in our attitude towards movement. The point is to make us aware, and to make our efforts fun or more competitive for some. In that way, these fitness trackers work well. You will park at the far end of the lot, get off the bus sooner and walk, go for a walk down the block just to bring your step count up to your 10,000-step goal.

Get Fitness Testing Done for Maximum Results

Whichever Fitness tracker or monitor you choose to purchase, accuracy is key when looking to achieve and surpass goals.  The best way to achieve maximum result, in the least amount of time and with the most accuracy is to have fitness testing done. The Sub Max V02 test measures the rate of oxygen during incremental exercise. Your max oxygen consumption reflects your aerobic physical fitness and is an important determinant of your endurance capacity during prolonged, submaximal exercise. The Sub Max VO2 test will give you specific heart rate zone that you should be training in for warm up, fat burning, moderate intervals and high-intensity intervals.

All these tools allow you to gauge and gain knowledge about the workings of your own body and for people with health conditions monitoring your heart rate can be imperative. Working with an elite trainer will always be your biggest asset when planning to accomplish fitness goals. Elite trainers can plan out your goals for all areas of fitness and the tool just becomes a way to monitor if you are in the right zone. Keep in mind, these devices are successful not because of their scientific merits but because of their motivational ones.

Cathie Glennon – BCRPA-SFL, Rehabilitation Specialist, CSNA