“Fitness Trackers are Inaccurate” is a headline you’ll see frequently in the coming months. It is New Year’s Resolution time, and people are resolving to “get in shape” or “lose weight.” (A better resolution is “be healthier,” without the focus on appearance. But that’s a different topic.) Fitness tracker manufacturers love to cash in on people’s hopes and dreams. And the media will respond by saying “woah, these things aren’t accurate.”
This is of course true. Fitness trackers aren’t super accurate. Different algorithms will give you different step counts. I have tried several wearables, and different brands had different ideas on how many steps I took in a day. But this didn’t actually matter (until I switched of course). What did matter was how consistent the device was with itself.
The problem is, most fitness trackers tend to focus on the “10,000 Steps” rule. A rule that experts don’t agree on. If this were the metric you were aiming for, accuracy would be important. I suggest a different metric. A metric with context for your life. “Move as much (or more) as the day before.”
This is one of the reasons I like the Garmin wearables. They start at 5,000 steps (the amount the average person takes in a day http://www.health.com/fitness/number-of-steps-americans-take-daily), and slowly increase your goal each day. It’s not perfect (I wish my “steps” from a run didn’t count), but it’s better than an arbitrary number. Fitness trackers are also great at telling you to move when you’ve been inactive for too long, usually an hour. These alerts help you move a little more throughout the day.
When I first got my Pebble, I recall my daily step count being somewhere around that 5,000 number. I knew I was inactive, but seeing it displayed right in front of me was still a surprise. By the time it died my average step count had gotten to around 10,000.
Don’t let the inaccuracy make you think fitness trackers are a waste of time. Instead, focus on how you can make them work for you. (Also, please get one of the Garmin ones so I can compete with you.)