A couple weeks ago, I read a DOSE article that covered the reliability of heart rate monitors, specifically the FitBit Charge and Surge trackers that measure heart rate and relate to the iPhone and Android apps the intensity of your workout. As a fit girl myself, I’d been looking into a new tracker after my last one died/became discontinued (Jawbone UP24). I started looking further into them, and I was disheartened with what I saw!
If anyone can tell you one of the toils of trying to lose weight/become healthy, finding a tracker that helps you, uh, keep track is definitely an overwhelming task. There are definitely too many to choose from, and they all vary in price point. The ever present question “how can I choose the right one?” becomes the worst struggle. Based on this article, and the study associated with it from CalPoly, it seems that FitBit isn’t as accurate in measuring heart rate as they say they are. Here’s why:
The study included free and gym specific exercises in their control and experimental groups and based on their analysis the conclusion was that the Charge and Surge monitors do not provide valid measure of rate, off by a measure of 25 beats per minute. The devices are inconsistent and “cannot be used to provide a meaningful estimate of a user’s heart rate”.
Anyone who is new to fitness should know that your target heart rate needs to fit within a specific range for best results, and overall positive health steps. If these Fitbits are off by as much as the study shows, you may be over or under exerting yourself. Even more so, people with heart conditions or are obese could damage any progress they might have had with the inaccuracy. I, for one, don’t necessarily believe that ANY of the trackers we’ve used or are available to consumers are any better in reporting the most accurate of data. Why? Because I’ve worn three at one time, and they all came back with different results, or miscalculated steps. I read a secondary article, How Accurate Are Fitness Monitors, because I was torn over the Fitbit – at this point I really wanted the newer Blaze that looks similar to the Apple watch. I’d been researching and used the Best Fitness Trackers of 2016 as a guide after the Jawbone Up24 I had died (after 3 years, it’s a great product but they discontinued it). It was interesting what the articles points were.
Dr. Meckes, a previous researcher at Arizona State University, “gathered 16 adult volunteers and fitted each with three different monitors, two worn on the hip and one around the arm.” They wore apparatuses that monitored their oxygen intake and energy output. The director of the Healthy Lifestyles Research Center at Arizona State University in Phoenix, Dr. Glenn Gaesser, who oversaw the study says inaccuracies in heart rate of any fitness tracker “doesn’t mean you should stash yours in a drawer - they may not be accurate for counting calories… but for many people, they’re inspirational, and if using one gets someone to move more, then as far as I’m concerned, it’s serving a good purpose.”
So... That's a 'no' to buying a Fitbit?
Wait - That's not what I said! If you want an accurate heart rate monitor, then maybe dont go with the Charge or the Surge... BUT they still get steps, they still motivate you to get up and keep moving. At the end of the day, Fitbits are a great buy if you're interested in keeping track of how many flights of stairs or steps you took to reach the recommended daily exercise goal. If you want, buy it! I did!
I ended up purchasing the Fitbit Blaze watch anyway, like I’d originally wanted. I figure, if it’s off by any amount, at least the steps are accurate and that’s what counts. Plus, it will sync to the scale and provide other details to MyFitnessPal. Oh, and I also bought the Aria (a scale that measures weight, body fat percentage and BMI). What can I say, I love gadgets!
Find out which one is best for you with this matrix HERE.