Are Fitness Bands Worth The Money?
Hilarious as it was, the fact that Apple dropped key health and fitness features out of the Apple Watch because the current software wasn’t living up to the company’s standards of accuracy and performance benchmarks told the untold fable. Moral of the story: These things aren’t that accurate. But the question remains: Are fitness bands worth the money?
Is that activity tracker worth your precious time, hopes, money and, for what it’s worth, effort? We investigate that and more.
Fitness bands come in all price ranges. Well, almost.
There’s the ultra expensive, bells and whistles $1,500 (GBP 1,130) Tag Heuer Connected Watch, which is a glorified fitness band and clever watch all in one. And then there are the cheaper ones such as Misfit’s Flash (GBP 15) and the UP Move from Jawbone for GBP 26.
They come in a spectrum of bright colors, too. Some stare back like alien hardware with the classy and stylish feel of an everyday wrist-worn accessory. Yet, we don’t essentially buy them for their aesthetic luster.
At least that is how it should be.
You need an activity tracker that puts its worth where it’s big, show off mouth is.
Are Fitness Bands Useful—At All?
Wearable fitness bands are all the range. The people who swear by them use them for steps counting, sleep patterns tracking, heart rate monitoring, measuring distance covered, and keeping tabs on their diet and weight.
The health bands link to mobile apps and online boards to help users view their health data and (ideally) make wise lifestyle choices from analyzing the stats. Some fitness band brands claim to use the data they collect to help tailor fitness programs to help you achieve a set of health goals.
But a class suit earlier in 2016 against the category-leading company, Fitbit, struck a nerve for many health techies.
The group of exercise and health enthusiasts that sued claimed Fitbit’s Charge HR fitness band miscalculated heart rate by a “dangerous” margin.
And even though Consumer Insights retested the gadget and reiterated that the Charge HR was quite accurate, the suit led many to question the point in even having to buy a fitness band that is no more useful than the free fitness apps and sensors on their smartphones.
How accurate is your fitness band?
1. Calories Burned
A study conducted by Iowa State University researchers, led by Mitesh S. Patel, MD, MBA, MS, found that all of the popular fitness bands had a 10 percent margin of error.
- Fitbit’s One was accurate to 10.4 percent.
- Nike’s FuelBand was accurate to 13 percent.
- BodyMedia Fit band, which tracks vigorous and moderate activity, sleep, and skin temperature and heat flux, scored the top points with 9.3 percent.
Some proved to be worse.
For example, compared to a Fitbit One and Polar Loop, a Basis band overestimated calories burned by 300-400 extra calories burned in a single day.
In practice, that is the calorie count equivalent of an hour’s worth of hiking or the difference between eating an extra sandwich to counter excessive energy expenditure and skipping one altogether.
Also according to health tech expert Kieran Alger, most fitness bands only use personal data such as age, weight, gender and height to compute calories burnt.
According to Alger, most of the results never really reflect what’s burning in the body.
2. Heart Rate Monitoring
How many calories you burn depends on your body’s oxygen expenditure. Stats on your heart rate inform on oxygen expenditure.
That is how we know that if a fitness band is either overestimating or underestimating calories burnt, it could get your heart racing towards the wrong direction and pace—not to mention health issues.
The debate rages on here. Chest strap bands are generally considered research-worthy accurate compared to regular fitness bands.
3. Steps Count
Most fitness bands count steps. Fitbit’s family has the daily steps count goal set at 10,000 steps out-of-the-box. Jawbone’s fitness bands come with 7,500 steps set as per day goal.
While most of these popular bands have inbuilt filters to discredit some movements—a person has to step about for 4 seconds to be regarded as walking—still, the bands miscalculate steps.
According to Team Great Britain’s health scientist and nutritionist, Freddy Brown, a fitness band is best used as a motivator to get you up and moving — not a doctor.
The scientist tested 8 fitness bands to test accuracy in distance covered and steps count by journeying the Orbit Tower at the Olympic Park in London. The Orbit Tower registers 556 steps and covers a distance of 350 meters.
The best results came off of the Fitbit Charge HR (the same device in the American lawsuit), which was out by 47 steps on average.
Tom Tom’s multi-sport cardio GPS watch was inaccurate by 50 steps. This may not be much, but if you have a heart condition, and need to stick within a particular heart rate zone, that discrepancy could prove fatal down the line.
That is especially considering the fact that other studies have found that higher intensity activity tends to drive most fitness bands out of line.
So it could drastically exceed a 50-step miscalculation.
Are fitness bands worth the money?
So, is it worth spending cash on a less than 91 percent accurate fitness tracker?
Most experts recommend that you take caution when using fitness bands. Do not, for example, indulge in takeout simply because the band says you burnt the most calories in your fitness circle of friends.
However, according to multiple studies, most people rarely stick to their gym membership for more than 6 months—they become bored.
Also, most health band users never really care for pinpoint accuracy as far as fitness band use goes.
What most people want is something that gives feedback on whether they have been active or not, and in a fun, social way—effects that fitness bands provide.
The hard-nosed reality that you’ve been lazy, or are trailing your friends is enough to get some people walking, jogging, running, biking, swimming, or jumping rope.
What do you think? Are fitness trackers worth it? And how to use them properly? Let us know in the comments below!