Do Popular Pedometers Really Work?

fb3104e7c1201378203d88bf3fea75b08317b0df_fotolia_75718947_subscription_monthly_mA large factor in the success of any diet or fitness plan is motivation. Whether you’re working 40+ hours per week, or running your children around town every day, it can be hard to find and maintain motivation to exercise.

Exercise is important, and not just for those trying to lose weight. Studies show that exercise can help you avoid dangerous diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Step counters are the hottest fitness craze, with companies like Nike, Apple and Fitbit creating everything from watches to apps that track your steps and help you set fitness goals. But do these products really work? And how effective are they?

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that smartphone apps and wearable devices are actually quite accurate in tracking step counts. “Data from smartphones were only slightly different than observed step counts, but could be higher or lower,” noted the authors of a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association.

The study looked at healthy adults who agreed to use a treadmill, while wearing 10 popular “step counting” products including products from companies like Fitbit, Nike and Jawbone, while an observer counted actual steps.

Their findings concluded that smartphone apps were generally more accurate than wearable devices. The most accurate device, according to the study was the Fitbit Flex. The highly popularNike Fuel Band counted 20% fewer steps than observed, which is surprising because the product has been known to inflate the number of actual steps, tracking arm movements while the wearer sits for example. Nike did not response to requests for comment by CNN.com.

One in 10 adults in the U.S. own step trackers, “Increased physical activity facilitated by these devices could lead to clinical benefits not realized by low adoption of pedometers,” study authors wrote. “Our findings may help reinforce individuals’ trust in using smartphone applications and wearable devices to track health behaviors, which could have important implications for strategies to improve population health.”

It’s still too early on to determine if “step trackers” or pedometers have long term health benefits for wearers, but with results like these you might be inclined to make a purchase yourself.

What do you think about popular pedometer products like the Nike Fuel Band? Would you purchase one? Let us know in the comment section below or tweet us @dayton_dandes.

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References
Case, Meredith A., Burwick, Holland A., Volpp, Kevin G., Patel, Mitesh S. “Accuracy of Smartphone Applications and Wearable Devices for Tracking Physical Activity Data.” The Journal of the American Medical Association. 2015. Jama.jamanetwork.com.

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