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Why you can’t trust a fitness tracker with Calorie Burn

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Before Fitbits, there was a time when no one knew how many calories they were consuming every day. Indeed, you can calculate a rough estimate based on your body size, gender, and age. You can choose to believe in the calorie display on your gym’s treadmill or bike.But the idea that gadgets can tell you You personally burn This whole, a specific day It was revolutionary. That was also wrong. It’s still wrong.

How Fitness Tracker Calculates Calorie Consumption

Before thinking about how accurate a fitness tracker is, let’s take a look at what it actually does. Most trackers use accelerometers to keep track of when and how much your body is moving. If you have a watch on your wrist and the watch rhythmically swings back and forth while bouncing up and down, the gadget will guess you need to walk. If it bounces fast and your wrists move a little, you’re probably running.

This is the basic idea behind how the tracker detects the number of steps being taken. If you pay attention to the number of steps, you already know some ways this can be inaccurate. For example, if you are shopping and you leave your hand on the handle of your shopping cart, you may not get credit for the procedure you are performing. (Wearables that clip to the torso are more accurate, but manufacturers seem to be moving away from clip-on types.)

Next is the heart rate sensor. It may be easier to tell your watch that you are cycling, yoga, etc., as your hands do not always move as expected while exercising. The gadget then uses your heart rate to make informed guesses about how much work your body is doing.

Whatever the source of your data, such as heart rate, movement, or combination, the gadget uses mathematical formulas to calculate the number of calories you think you’re burning. Your age, weight and gender may be reflected in this equation.Therefore, fitness trackers are actually know The number of calories you are burning; instead, you are calculating numbers based on incomplete information.

Factors that can affect the accuracy of your fitness tracker

If we are robots, everything is built the same, and everything is moving in a predictable pattern, this approach may work. But humans are complex and technology is often confusing.

For example, you might get different steps When gadgets are placed on the right and left wrists..And the optical heart rate sensor used by many trackers Less accurate on dark skin..

These issues relate to the data that the tracker collects, but the question is how the algorithm puts it all together to get the number that is displayed when indicating the number of calories burned. Companies that manufacture fitness trackers do not need to publish algorithms or verify that calorie counting is accurate. They can just bring devices to market, and you’re there, comparing wearables on shopping sites without information about how accurate they are, in addition to the company’s claims.

Researchers are interested in the accuracy of fitness trackers, which seems like a good thing. They want to be able to use wearables for research and recommend them to individuals and healthcare providers.

However, there is a huge delay in actually getting that information, and it is often too late to be useful. It may have been several years before researchers bought a batch of the latest model, performed the research, wrote it down, submitted it to the journal, and finally published it, and the company moved on to the next model. I have.

With that in mind, I think it’s still useful to look at some of the research on fitness trackers to see what themes are emerging.teeth Any Of those, are you good at estimating your calorie burn?

Research on the accuracy of fitness trackers

Now it’s time for bad news. A Research from 2020When I looked at various gadgets such as Apple, Garmin, Polar, and Fitbit products, all devices were often more inaccurate than accurate. The authors considered the device to be accurate if the reading was plus or minus 3% compared to a more accurate reading of energy consumption (ie, calorie burning) in the laboratory. Here’s how some of the top brands have succeeded:

  • Garmin has a 69% chance of underestimating calorie burning.
  • Apple has a 58% chance of monitoring overrated calorie burns.
  • Polar devices had a 69% chance of overestimating calorie burning.
  • Fitbits had a 48% chance of underestimating and a 39% chance of overestimating.

The fact that Fitbits was roughly correct on average It doesn’t mean they were useful. If your device overestimates or underestimates, it doesn’t help much unless you know which one.

A Especially Fitbits 2018 review We found that accuracy varies greatly depending on factors such as where you wear it (the torso is more accurate than your wrists), whether you are walking uphill, walking at a constant speed, or stopping and starting. Accuracy also depends on the device, with Fitbit Classic underestimating calorie consumption and Fitbit Charge usually overestimating.The device is not accurate enough to know how many calories are actually burning

A More recent research, Compared to Apple Watch 6, Fitbit Sense, and Polar Vantage V, released earlier this year. Researchers had volunteers wear all three gadgets while sitting quietly, walking, running, cycling, and training. All gadgets were judged “inaccurate” with a coefficient of variation in the range of 15% to 30% for all activities.

If all of these devices are inaccurate, how do I need to know how many calories I’m burning?

Probably the most convenient when you think of calorie consumption as a number that cannot be measured directly.Treat it as a black box: I burn Some unknown numbers What’s the calorie now?

The only common reason you need an accurate estimate of calorie burning is when you’re trying to figure out how much food you need to eat.If you want to lose weight, you want Eat less than you burnIf you want to gain weight, you need to do the opposite. And if you’re trying to make sure you maintain your weight, you want to eat much like what you burn.

The cool thing is that you can adjust the amount you eat Directly Instead of using calorie burning estimates as an intermediary, to your weight. Suppose you are training for a marathon and want to refuel properly. Well, if you eat too much, you will start losing weight. When you start seeing a downward trend in scale, it’s your signal to add hundreds of calories to your diet. After that adjustment, if your weight is stable, you know that you are eating the right amount. The more training you have (or if you take a break to rest your sprained ankle), the more adjustments you can make as you go.

we have Post here Details on how to make these adjustments using either a paid app, a group of free apps, or a DIY spreadsheet. If you’re using a fitness tracker instead and it’s working, continue to use it. However, if the tracker no longer provides the desired result, go ahead and exclude it from the equation.

Why you can’t trust a fitness tracker with Calorie Burn

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