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Eur J Sport Sci. 2017 Apr;17(3):360-368. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2016.1255261. Epub 2016 Dec 2.

How valid are wearable physical activity trackers for measuring steps?

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a School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation , University of Nebraska at Omaha , Omaha , NE , USA.
b Graduate School of Education , Yong-In University , Cheoin-gu, Yongin-si , Gyeonggi-do , South Korea.
c Department of Kinesiology , Iowa State University , Ames , IA , USA.


Wearable activity trackers have become popular for tracking individual's daily physical activity, but little information is available to substantiate the validity of these devices in step counts. Thirty-five healthy individuals completed three conditions of activity tracker measurement: walking/jogging on a treadmill, walking over-ground on an indoor track, and a 24-hour free-living condition. Participants wore 10 activity trackers at the same time for both treadmill and over-ground protocol. Of these 10 activity trackers three were randomly given for 24-hour free-living condition. Correlations of steps measured to steps observed were r = 0.84 and r = 0.67 on a treadmill and over-ground protocol, respectively. The mean MAPE (mean absolute percentage error) score for all devices and speeds on a treadmill was 8.2% against manually counted steps. The MAPE value was higher for over-ground walking (9.9%) and even higher for the 24-hour free-living period (18.48%) on step counts. Equivalence testing for step count measurement resulted in a significant level within ±5% for the Fitbit Zip, Withings Pulse, and Jawbone UP24 and within ±10% for the Basis B1 band, Garmin VivoFit, and SenseWear Armband Mini. The results show that the Fitbit Zip and Withings Pulse provided the most accurate measures of step count under all three different conditions (i.e. treadmill, over-ground, and 24-hour condition), and considerable variability in accuracy across monitors and also by speeds and conditions.


Health; assessment; behaviour; measurement; sedentary living

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