Everyone who has used fitness app or Fitbit has probably wondered, “how accurate is my Fitbit?” How do you know if Fitbit is correctly counting your steps? Or maybe you’ve just wondered what the most accurate fitness apps are. Many people already have step trackers on their phones: all Android phones and iPhones come with fitness tracking apps that are free and pre-installed. But just how do these apps measure up to physical trackers? There has long been the notion that an app cannot track fitness with the same level of accuracy as a separate physical device. However, you might be surprised to learn that wearable technology fitness trackers end up being no more accurate than phone apps.
This was the conclusion reached by a study done by the University of Pennsylvania. Researchers tested a wide range of devices and apps. Participants wore the devices at waist level, on their wrist, and in their pockets while walking on a treadmill. Researchers took note of the steps tracked by each device and analyzed the step data. The results were striking: phone apps performed just as well as wearable devices and smartwatches.
The Real Accuracy of Fitness Apps
Interestingly, the step counts for apps and wearable devices were not that different from each other. But when it came to physical devices (like Fitbits versus Garmin watches) there was more variation in step counts among these wearables. One possible reason for this is that phone apps, for the most part, track your steps the same way: you can use whichever app you like and be assured that you’ll get similar results. On the other hand, wearables have different sensors and step counts are, as a result, measured in different ways. While the report doesn’t specify which wearable is more accurate, the conclusion clear: apps are a more affordable, and more reliable way to track your activity.
So which fitness app should I use?
We recommend individuals and companies looking to invest in fitness should use free apps like Apple Health (see how this Insurance company gave out free Apple Watches) and Google Fit rather than wearable trackers. Employers can leverage the money they save on devices to encourage exercise instead. At IncentFit we’ve designed a rewards program around this philosophy: we encourage companies to redirect the focus from devices, to physical activity. In this end, this approach saves companies thousands of dollars they would normally spend on fitness trackers, and rewards employees for leading healthy active lifestyles.
Here is a helpful breakdown of fitness trackers based on common activities:
- Best Fitness Trackers for Indoor Running
- Best Trackers for Indoor Cycling and Spinning
- Best Fitness Tracker for Swimming
One final tip though, is that buying a fitness tracker won’t be enough to establish a fitness routine in your life.