Over the past few years, app usage and engagement has dramatically increased. In 2014 alone, app usage increased by an overwhelming 76%. Recently, this has been especially true of fitness apps and wearable technology such as Fitbit and Accupedo. And while these fitness innovations have made it seemingly simple to stay connected and in shape all at once, recent research suggests that the inaccuracy of such devices might actually be a hindrance to our health.
Researchers at the University of Toronto tested popular pedometer apps such as Runtastic, Moves, and Accupedo and compared them to a $33 standalone pedometer. Ultimately, the researchers concluded that the apps were unfit for use in medical interventions and were as much as 30% inaccurate compared to a standard pedometer, which outperformed the smart devices with an accuracy increase of 5%.
For the test, the researchers had people walk 20 steps at regular speed. In these instances, the standard pedometer correctly recorded the number of steps traveled, while the apps were largely unsuccessful, either underreporting or overreporting steps.
Ultimately, the study’s authors concluded that there was an “unacceptable error percentage in all of the applications when compared to the pedometer,” and “the applications were neither valid nor consistent in the sample population under both controlled lab test and free-living conditions.”
Yet despite the less-than-positive portrait the research paints, there’s still a multitude of believers out there.
Take Alex Millette, a 22-year-old bodybuilder who believes that the wearable apps offer palpable results. Through apps, Millette says he learned about bodybuilding and attributes his muscular physique to that very guidance.
“They led to probably a healthier lifestyle, but mostly it just kind of gives you the knowledge and the background, an idea of what you’re supposed to be doing at the gym,” he said.
He also lauds the convenience of the fitness trackers.
“To sit there and have to write every nutrition thing down and have to add them up at the end of the day kind of thing, or add them as you’re going along without basically having a calculator doing it for you in an app would be very time consuming,” Millette explained.