Are they worth it? Fitness trackers put to the test

By Ivanhoe Author

They track everything from how deep you sleep to how many paces you run every minute. But are all these fitness trackers honest? Are they really accurate? And, is there a difference between them?

A recent study pitted four different brands of fitness trackers against one another and against a heart monitor in a stress test to find out which one was best. 

Dr. Mark Millard with Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas loves accurate measurements. He’s a pulmonary specialist and a triathlete. He’s connected to a wireless EKG along with two wrist fitness trackers. One costs $200, the other, $400, that’s connected to a chest strap. A 10-minute track run tests both of them.

“I get 155. I got you at 156. So, that’s pretty close, but on my wrist sensor, it was only 125,” Millard said.

Resting, all of the monitors read about the same. But add movement, like riding a stationary bike, and the basic wrist monitor doesn't measure up to the wrist and chest monitor and the baseline EKG.

“The big one is 134, the wrist is 120, and the EKG says 135.” Millard said.

While cheaper fitness trackers can count steps, they’re not so great at measuring heart rates, according to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. But they all have value.  

“They get you off the couch. They get you onto the track. They get you active and that, in and of itself, pays for itself in gold. You might even get a discount on your health insurance from your company that you work for,” Millard said.

He said he thinks the pricier trackers are worth it.    

"It’s (exercise) the best anti-depressant there is, and you sleep well,” he said. 

The benefits of exercise are well documented, leading to a longer, happier life. Exercise can also reduce the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's or dementia. 

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