Criterion-Validity of Commercially Available Physical Activity Tracker to Estimate Step Count, Covered Distance and Energy Expenditure during Sports Conditions

Yvonne Wahl, Peter Düking, Anna Droszez, Patrick Wahl, Joachim Mester

Publication: Contribution to journalJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


Background: In the past years, there was an increasing development of physical activity tracker (Wearables). For recreational people, testing of these devices under walking or light jogging conditions might be sufficient. For (elite) athletes, however, scientific trustworthiness needs to be given for a broad spectrum of velocities or even fast changes in velocities reflecting the demands of the sport. Therefore, the aim was to evaluate the validity of eleven Wearables for monitoring step count, covered distance and energy expenditure (EE) under laboratory conditions with different constant and varying velocities. Methods: Twenty healthy sport students (10 men, 10 women) performed a running protocol consisting of four 5 min stages of different constant velocities (4.3; 7.2; 10.1; 13.0 km·h(-1)), a 5 min period of intermittent velocity, and a 2.4 km outdoor run (10.1 km·h(-1)) while wearing eleven different Wearables (Bodymedia Sensewear, Beurer AS 80, Polar Loop, Garmin Vivofit, Garmin Vivosmart, Garmin Vivoactive, Garmin Forerunner 920XT, Fitbit Charge, Fitbit Charge HR, Xaomi MiBand, Withings Pulse Ox). Step count, covered distance, and EE were evaluated by comparing each Wearable with a criterion method (Optogait system and manual counting for step count, treadmill for covered distance and indirect calorimetry for EE). Results: All Wearables, except Bodymedia Sensewear, Polar Loop, and Beurer AS80, revealed good validity (small MAPE, good ICC) for all constant and varying velocities for monitoring step count. For covered distance, all Wearables showed a very low ICC (<0.1) and high MAPE (up to 50%), revealing no good validity. The measurement of EE was acceptable for the Garmin, Fitbit and Withings Wearables (small to moderate MAPE), while Bodymedia Sensewear, Polar Loop, and Beurer AS80 showed a high MAPE up to 56% for all test conditions. Conclusion: In our study, most Wearables provide an acceptable level of validity for step counts at different constant and intermittent running velocities reflecting sports conditions. However, the covered distance, as well as the EE could not be assessed validly with the investigated Wearables. Consequently, covered distance and EE should not be monitored with the presented Wearables, in sport specific conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number725
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Research areas and keywords

  • Journal Article


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