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Fitness trackers 'add miles to your marathon'

BBC News 26 Apr 2019 11:52
By Zoe Kleinman Technology reporter, BBC News
Apple WatchImage copyright Getty Images

Some fitness trackers are inaccurately measuring running distance, according to research from the consumer watchdog Which?

It tested 118 trackers using a treadmill to complete the distance of a marathon - 26.2 miles (42km).

It found that the least reliable was the Garmin Vivosmart 4, which underestimated the distance by 10.8 miles – meaning the researcher actually ran 37 miles.

Garmin said it was because that particular tracker did not contain GPS.

It described the Vivosmart 4 as an “all-round smart fitness tracker” and suggested that marathon runners use its Forerunner range which is GPS-enabled.

Of the eight Apple models involved in the test, the Apple Watch series 1 was the most accurate, over-estimating the distance by 1%, while the series 3 overestimated by 13% - stating that the runner had completed the marathon distance after 22.8 miles.

Other results for the number of miles reached before the tracker recorded the official marathon distance included:

A Huawei spokesman told the BBC “individual runner variances” could have affected the test results.

Image copyright Getty Images

Gavin Taitt is a regular middle-distance runner from Earlston, in the Scottish Borders, who also coaches others. He said he and his group use a combination of Garmin Forerunner watches and the social fitness network Strava to measure and share results.

“Accuracy is very important.”

"This is a real shame as a real world (on-road) test would have been more useful for consumers," said Dr Dale Esliger, senior lecturer in physical activity and health at Loughborough University.

"Step-counting has become a key metric for many; however, devices are now coming with heart-rate monitoring capability which relates to activity intensity and provides insight into cardiovascular health," he explained.

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HuaweiGarminBBCAppleDr Dale Esliger
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