Are Activity Trackers REALLY Tracking your steps?

September 16, 2016


If you don’t have one yourself, I am sure you know someone that has some type of activity tracker. That may be a Fitbit, a Samsung Gear Fit, a Garmin, or any other type of wristband that can track your activity throughout the day.  Ever wonder if these actually work? I do.


As an owner of a Fitbit I am constantly making sure that I am reaching my step goal for the day. Although, since I have my fit bit on my wrist, I am able to get “steps” in for the day when I move my arm around. So, I am probably not getting as many steps as my Fitbit is telling me I am getting. But, what if it was underestimating my steps?


For people who are older aged, that may use canes or walkers, an activity tracker probably doesn’t include all the steps that they take each day. Most activity trackers, whether worn on your ankle, wrist, or waist measure steps based on force and acceleration. Since someone of older age walks slower, the trackers may not detect when that person is taking a step. In a study of older adults aged 62 and older, four different devices were tested. All but one underestimated the actual steps for people not using canes by under 10%, but for people using canes the margin was much larger.


While the steps on these trackers may not be correct, it has been shown that they are encouraging an increase in physical activity across all ages. This is very beneficial because even a small amount of physical activity can decrease risk of many chronic diseases, and therefore, improving your long-term health.



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