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Smartphone Fitness Apps Are Inaccurate and Unreliable

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Credit: Curtis Mac Newton.

Researchers from the University of Toronto have evaluated several free fitness apps and found an unacceptable error percentage when compared to a pedometer. The authors recommend caution when using these apps for self-assessment of physical state or when used in clinical trials. The study was published in the journal BMC Research Notes.

Physical activity is crucial to maintain a healthy mental and physical state. However, a very small percentage of adults reach the recommended level of exercise. Luckily, with the widespread availability of fitness apps in smartphones, many individuals can now self-monitor their daily exercise levels and progress. In the past, studies were carried out to test several iPhone and Android fitness apps, but lacked rigor and were not comprehensive.

Comparación con un podómetro clásico

The University of Toronto wanted to evaluate physical activity in the workplace through an initiative called Rise at Work. Professor Guy Faulkner and KPE master’s student Krystn Orr started looking for an app to evaluate physical activity and decided to test the most downloaded three: Accupedo, Moves and Runtastic Pedometer. The team recruited 11 individuals who used the apps in five tests: 20-steps, 40-step stair climbing, treadmill walking and running at different speeds, driving, and 3-day free-living. The free apps where compared with a Yamax SW-200 pedometer and observed step counts. After analyzing the data, the researchers concluded that the apps have an unacceptable error percentage compared to the pedometer.

The researchers caution against relying in these free apps to self-assess physical activity levels and suggest to invest in wearable technology specifically built to track movement, or in a traditional pedometer.

Source. U. of Toronto