Measuring the fitness of fitness trackers

Chelsea G. Bender, Jason C. Hoffstot, Brian T. Combs, Sara Hooshangi, Justin Cappos

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


    Data collected by fitness trackers could play an important role in improving the health and well-being of the individuals who wear them. Many insurance companies even offer monetary rewards to participants who meet certain steps or calorie goals. However, in order for it to be useful, the collected data must be accurate and also reflect real-world performance. While previous studies have compared step counts data in controlled laboratory environments for limited periods of time, few studies have been done to measure performance over longer periods of time, while the subject does real-world activities. There are also few direct comparisons of a range of health indicators on different fitness tracking devices. In this study, we compared step counts, calories burned, and miles travelled data collected by three pairs of fitness trackers over a 14-day time period in free-living conditions. Our work indicates that the number of steps reported by different devices worn simultaneously could vary as much as 26%. At the same time, the variations seen in distance travelled, based on the step count, followed the same trends. Little correlation was found between the number of calories burned and the variations seen in the step count across multiple devices. Our results demonstrate that the reporting of health indicators, such as calories burned and miles travelled, are heavily dependent on the device itself, as well as the manufacturer's proprietary algorithm to calculate or infer such data. As a result, it is difficult to use such measurements as an accurate predictor of health outcomes, or to develop a consistent criteria to rate the performance of such devices in head-to-head comparisons.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationSAS 2017 - 2017 IEEE Sensors Applications Symposium, Proceedings
    PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
    ISBN (Electronic)9781509032020
    StatePublished - Apr 6 2017
    Event12th IEEE Sensors Applications Symposium, SAS 2017 - Glassboro, United States
    Duration: Mar 13 2017Mar 15 2017

    Publication series

    NameSAS 2017 - 2017 IEEE Sensors Applications Symposium, Proceedings


    Other12th IEEE Sensors Applications Symposium, SAS 2017
    Country/TerritoryUnited States


    • Accuracy
    • Fitness Trackers
    • Free-living Conditions
    • Physical Activity

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Instrumentation
    • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
    • Health Informatics


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