We’ve all been seeing the headlines lately. Whether you have an Apple Watch, a Fitbit, a Samsung Gear or some other wearable technology device, your step counts are likely accurate enough but certain other features – particularly calorie burn counts – can be way off the mark. Does this mean that you should chuck your beloved fitness tracker in a drawer and give up on it? Not at all!
The key is to understand what your fitness tracker was designed to do and how to use it as a guidance tool as opposed to interpreting its data as though it is laser precise. Remember that this type of device is meant to help you to understand your habits, gauge how you’re doing in a day and recognize patterns that can show you where you could be improving your health in meaningful ways.
Equally, this doesn’t mean that these devices will never miscount your steps, tell you that you’ve burned more calories than you really did or think that you were sleeping when you were actually binge watching Netflix for several hours overnight. These gadgets are helpful, not perfect.
Fortunately, they are continually improving. The massive competition among rival brands and the need to encourage shoppers to replace their old fitness trackers with new ones has driven companies to push to achieve increasingly accurate tech.
Most of the fitness trackers currently on the market have been tested and retested, not only by the companies that made them but by independent organizations as well. This has made it possible to know that the average tracker does a pretty good job at counting steps. Aside from certain glitches that cause steps to be counted when the wearer does something else – like clapping – people can usually believe the results of their pedometer. The same can be said about the models that include a heart rate monitor.
In fact, even the step counters in smartphone apps are starting to do a better job, as are those in smartwatches, which didn’t used to perform as well as dedicated fitness trackers.
Where you need to be very careful when interpreting your results is typically in the area of calorie burning, stair climbing and sleep quality. The reason is that there are a large number of additional factors that need to be taken into account for those measurements and devices have yet to report them with high levels of precision. This can lead to overeating, poor sleeping habits and overall frustration.
Therefore, while you can use those readings to get an overall idea of certain patterns, try not to base the decisions you make on the individual numbers. Pay more attention to your habits in those areas than on your daily performances.