Fitness trackers are less accurate than chest-worn heart monitors

Fitness trackers are less accurate than chest-worn heart monitors. Here’s why!

Keeping a check on your day to day physical activities becomes imperative for leading a healthy life. A fitness tracker is an effective device which can help you achieve your daily target with ease. More and more fitness trackers have come into use that monitor your heart rate. However, a research conducted by a team of Cleveland Clinic physicians highlighted that fitness trackers are less accurate as compared to chest-worn heart monitors.

Majority of the athletes, runners and distance cyclists use chest-worn monitors whose functions are similar to an electrocardiogram (EKG) used for diagnosis by physicians. It is mainly used for detecting and measuring the electrical signal which are transmitted by the heart when it beats.  The procedure of EKG involves attaching the electrodes to the skin and the EKG device in order to record the electrical activity of the heart. A picture is drawn on a graph paper using the information provided by the electrodes.

The chest-worn heart monitor includes a transmitter attached to a belt and a receiver. The transmitter is worn around the chest and the receiver is worn on the wrist like a watch. The electric signal is picked up by the transmitter and an electromagnetic signal containing heart rate data is sent to the wrist receiver, which displays the heart rate.

Fitness trackers

Fitness trackers

Apart from measuring the heart rate, a fitness tracker also detects the blood coursing through the veins using the optical sensors. However, they have a number of drawbacks as well.  As they are to be worn on your wrist, the blood flow is read by the optical heart rate sensors. The movement of your arms or flexing of your wrist can decrease the accuracy to an extent.

The wrist-worn monitors are considered to be accurate for recreational purpose and measuring the heart rate. However, their accuracy tends to be reduced if they are used during any physical activity.

A research was conducted in which a number of healthy adults without cardiovascular disease were made to wear two of four wrist-worn fitness devices with heart rate monitors (one on each wrist— while walking or running on a treadmill). The adults were also made to wear standard EKG electrodes and a chest-worn monitor.

The heart rate of the participants was measured while resting, walking and running on the treadmill at various speeds. Their heart rate was recorded at the three-minute point while they exercised for three minutes at different settings. At 30, 60 and 90 seconds, the recovery heart rate was measured at the end of the three minutes. The research highlighted that the readings from the chest-worn monitor were the most accurate as compared to the EKG.

Wrist-worn monitors are not considered completely reliable in the hospitals as they are not as accurate as an EKG. It is recommended to use a chest-worn monitor for getting the most accurate and precise information. The readings from wrist-worn monitors tend to be less reliable measurement.

The use of the wrist-worn fitness devices that include heart rate monitors should be avoided. The heart rate of the patients measured using these devices is usually higher than the actual heart rate.

You should opt for the chest-worn heart monitor to know your accurate heart rate as it is effective in sensing electricity. However, it is recommended to take multiple readings as you cannot rely completely on these devices to be accurate every time.

Daniel is our UK-based freelance Editor. As part of our quest towards credible news, Doctor's Clinic Blog India affiliates with individuals from other parts of the world to provide an in-depth focus on essential topics. Daniel received his degree from the University of Sheffield, and since then, worked to multiple sites as a freelance contributor and editor.

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