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Seaver Professors and Students Explore Reliability of Wearable Fitness Trackers

June 1, 2022  | 1 min read

In April, Seaver College assistant professor of sports medicine Hunter L. Paris and adjunct natural science adjunct professor Brittni A. Paris, along with students Ian Holder and Alicia Oumsang, collaborated with Ren-Jay Shei of Indiana University Bloomington on the article “Wearable activity trackers–advanced technology or advanced marketing?” The article was published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.

The study assesses the current validity and reliability of measurements taken by wearable fitness devices and offers ways to approach wearable technology and its integration into health and fitness. The researchers assert that, as the popularity of these devices increases, the information they provide will have an increased impact on areas such as “physical activity, well-being, cardiovascular health, mortality risk, dietary habits,” and more.

“Wearable technologies are powerful tools for health and fitness and have become indispensable training tools for athletes of all levels,” the study states. “Yet, for all their merits, significant limitations exist, primarily related to the validity and reliability of the metrics these devices purport to measure… Improving transparency in development and validation of these metrics, along with better tailoring to individuals should increase the validity and reliability of these devices.”

The researchers conclude with a warning to readers to exercise caution when interpreting data from activity tracking devices.

“[A]re they more advanced technology or advanced marketing to the end user,” the study asks. “Scientists and practitioners alike would do well to remember that good science is often not good marketing; and conversely (and perhaps more importantly), good marketing is not always good science.”

To read the full paper, visit the European Journal of Applied Physiology website.