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JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2019 Oct 2;7(10):e14120. doi: 10.2196/14120.

Heart Rate Measures From Wrist-Worn Activity Trackers in a Laboratory and Free-Living Setting: Validation Study.

Author information

1
Health Systems & Behavioral Sciences, Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University of Singapore and National University Health System, Singapore, Singapore.
2
Centre for Sport & Exercise Sciences, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
3
Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University of Singapore and National University Health System, Singapore, Singapore.
4
Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore and National University Health System, Singapore, Singapore.
5
Department of Physiology, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore.
6
Health Promotion Board Singapore, Singapore, Singapore.
7
Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics, Charite University Medical Centre Berlin, Berlin, Germany.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Wrist-worn activity trackers are popular, and an increasing number of these devices are equipped with heart rate (HR) measurement capabilities. However, the validity of HR data obtained from such trackers has not been thoroughly assessed outside the laboratory setting.

OBJECTIVE:

This study aimed to investigate the validity of HR measures of a high-cost consumer-based tracker (Polar A370) and a low-cost tracker (Tempo HR) in the laboratory and free-living settings.

METHODS:

Participants underwent a laboratory-based cycling protocol while wearing the two trackers and the chest-strapped Polar H10, which acted as criterion. Participants also wore the devices throughout the waking hours of the following day during which they were required to conduct at least one 10-min bout of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) to ensure variability in the HR signal. We extracted 10-second values from all devices and time-matched HR data from the trackers with those from the Polar H10. We calculated intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs), mean absolute errors, and mean absolute percentage errors (MAPEs) between the criterion and the trackers. We constructed decile plots that compared HR data from Tempo HR and Polar A370 with criterion measures across intensity deciles. We investigated how many HR data points within the MVPA zone (≥64% of maximum HR) were detected by the trackers.

RESULTS:

Of the 57 people screened, 55 joined the study (mean age 30.5 [SD 9.8] years). Tempo HR showed moderate agreement and large errors (laboratory: ICC 0.51 and MAPE 13.00%; free-living: ICC 0.71 and MAPE 10.20%). Polar A370 showed moderate-to-strong agreement and small errors (laboratory: ICC 0.73 and MAPE 6.40%; free-living: ICC 0.83 and MAPE 7.10%). Decile plots indicated increasing differences between Tempo HR and the criterion as HRs increased. Such trend was less pronounced when considering the Polar A370 HR data. Tempo HR identified 62.13% (1872/3013) and 54.27% (5717/10,535) of all MVPA time points in the laboratory phase and free-living phase, respectively. Polar A370 detected 81.09% (2273/2803) and 83.55% (9323/11,158) of all MVPA time points in the laboratory phase and free-living phase, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS:

HR data from the examined wrist-worn trackers were reasonably accurate in both the settings, with the Polar A370 showing stronger agreement with the Polar H10 and smaller errors. Inaccuracies increased with increasing HRs; this was pronounced for Tempo HR.

KEYWORDS:

eHealth; exercise; fitness; mHealth; measurement; public health; quantified self; wearable

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