Is the data offered by smart bracelets and other similar devices valid?

Researchers from the Faculty of Educational Sciences of the University of Malaga Daniel Mayorga and Iván López have participated in the wear fit projecta national study, led by the UGR, which examines the physical activity parameters of the portable devices most used by the Andalusian adolescent population.

For your realization leading brands in the market and the two most common operating systems, Android and iOS, have been evaluated, present in bracelets, smart watches and mobile applications. Thus, the following devices have been part of the analysis and apps, that contemplate the estimation of steps and physical activity of the users: the watches Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 and Apple WatchSeries 5Bracelet Xiaomi Mi Band 5 and various mobile applications (pedometer and Graze for Android and iPhone, as well as Google Fit for android and AppleHealth for iPhone mobiles).

Specifically, the sample was made up of 107 high school students -52 girls and 55 boys- with an average age of approximately 14, who participated in two investigations: a first study in which they completed a 200-meter run in four different conditions , while using these devices; and a second, where they used the three monitors throughout a day.

Do they provide reliable data?

The results show that these devices are valid for estimating the number of steps that adolescents have taken both in free life and in a controlled circuit. (amount of physical activity), as well as to verify compliance with the recommendations of the World Health Organization (10,000 steps/day). “Sometimes, even, this work reveals that the simplest and cheapest monitors are more accurate than other budget ones in some variables or conditions studied; for example, in the case of the steps carried out in free life conditions”, assure the professors of the UMA.

However, according to these experts from the Department of Languages, Arts and Sports, the devices they are not so useful to determine the different levels of intensity in the practice of physical activity (light, moderate or vigorous), although the apple watch showed acceptable validity for compliance or non-compliance with daily physical activity recommendations.

In this sense, the researchers advise taking the data they provide as simple indicators of the practice of physical activity, although sometimes the accuracy is less, as in the case of measuring the intensity of exercise.

Promotion of school health

On the other hand, in a previous review study it was found that these portable monitors are effective in combating sedentary lifestyles and helping the population change their physical activity habits.

“We recommend the use of these portable physical activity measurement monitors due to their effectiveness in promoting more active behavior. As a product of our project, an interesting field of promoting the health of schoolchildren is opened up through Physical Education teachers”, they affirm.

‘WearFit’ has been carried out under the direction of UGR professor Jesús Viciana and researchers from this Andalusian institution Carolina Casado, Juan Carlos de la Cruz and Ignacio Martín, as well as Santiago Guijarro, from the University from Valladolid. The authors point out that this line of research will continue with another project called ‘School-Fit’.

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