In recent years wearable technology has grown tremendously in popularity with use in the fitness industry being one of the largest growing segments. Smart watches are becoming one of the most common types of “wearables” containing technology such as heart rate monitors, oxygen saturation monitors, pedometers, accelerometers, and GPS units that can tell you a lot about your body and your movement from how far and fast you run, to how high you jump, how many calories you’re burning, even your relative stress levels.
With all of this new technology and biological feedback, how accurate can a smartwatch be? Depending on the model of smart watch purchased and what features you are interested in, the accuracy can vary widely. Some features such a heart rate tracking, pedometers, and even GPS features can offer a good amount of feedback and generally the information is accurate enough to base a training program on. So, for activities like running, walking, and cycling most wearable technology can give high quality feedback about distance travelled and heart rate information. The problems begin to arise when more analytical features such as calorie counters or accelerometers are relied on for feedback. Often times many smart watches will drastically over-estimate calories burned from running or walking and generally under-estimate calories burned from activities such as basketball or tennis. This is also seen across many different features that measure acceleration or body position.
When using any wearable technology be sure to accurately input your personal information from height and weight, to age and gender. Almost all smart watches use algorithms that take these factors into account to produce accurate feedback about everything from calorie expenditure to the speed of your arm moving. When using any wearable technology for fitness reasons just keep in mind “simple is better”. Every year technology is improving and the next few years will see all kinds of advancement in the wearable technology industry, but as you choose your next tech purchase, do some research to make sure you can use all you are paying for.