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How Accurate Are Fitbit Calories Burned? Not Much!

How Accurate Are Fitbit Calories Burned Not Much!

For people who are practicing strict adherence to routine exercises for first time it could be a little overwhelming at first to stay at top of fitness regime. Yet with time and patience it only becomes a normality.

Therefore just like heart rate and steps travelled there is also one more interesting metric that is home to many health trackers. The one that divides the opinion of dedicated and casual fans alike and leave them wondering of its accuracy in modern wearables.

Yes, I am talking about Calories Burned.

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The data captured by Fitbit trackers for calculating calories burned is not completely accurate or reliable. However, it can be used as a reference though shouldn't be used for forming any sort of medical basis over it.

Calories Burned What About It?

Let’s understand what the phrase “Calories Burned” actually means?

Our bodies are work of art. Or should I say nature’s most beautiful creation. Either way, the way our day to day body function is no less than a miracle. The food we consume is broken down into chunks and later absorbed by the cells in the form of energy. However, for cells to absorb the energy from food we have ate it has to be in a certain form and that form is called: Calories.

Everything we ate, and yes I am going to consider the cultural difference here, since you can be from any region of the planet and it would have different food, tradition, and eating habit. You should know regardless of it everything we consume has certain calories to provide.

Calories Burned What About It

On average human body needs 2000 calories if you are woman and 2500 for a man in a day. Although, what usually happens is the opposite and 60% of people find it hard to maintain balance, I myself being one of them, I couldn’t consume more than 1500 in a day. It is vital to be aware of why it is necessary to have a balance scale.

Why It Is Necessary: The amount of calories your body absorbed from your diet is its energy reserve to carry out vital bodily task. The more the merrier. Which also explains why people who engages in physically demanding activities have bigger appetites and burns more calories than someone who have little physical output.

How Fitbit Calculate Burned Calories?

Now that you are aware of what calories burned means let’s look at how Fitbit calculates them.

Just like any other fitness tracker Fitbit also works on an predetermined algorithm. While it is has never been made public what exactly does it entail or how does it work to reach to conclusion. We know it takes into account two factors:

There is little ambiguity around the second point, but it’s good starting point to keep those in mind. For those of you who are not familiar with the term Basal Metabolic Rate it is relatively simple concept. BMR refers to the progression at which calories are burned by the body in stale condition.

How Fitbit Calculates Calories Burned

For example if you are sleeping, you don’t happen to be in moving state, everything is in idle state. Which means any amount of calories that would be used by body during this timeframe to keep rudimentary functions going on would be counted in BMR reading.

So what Fitbit does is it takes BMR and other readings it monitors and feeds it to its algorithm at the back end. Output of which is displayed on your screen as Calories Burned. The question is it right or wrong has its answer down below?

Fitbit Results Are Accurate Or Not?

In a word: No.

Fitbit trackers results in regards of capturing the data to provide calories burned is neither 100% accurate nor reliable. It is also completely possible for tracker/smartwatch to show two different readings even if they would be taken in the same session.

However, here is the catch: Literally no wearable that is designed for B2C market is capable to provide 100% accurate result. Forget accuracy, most of what you would find in market are off by the 93%. Which does grant Fitbit a place of prominence.

In 2017 during the study conducted in Journal of Personalized Medicine it was found out that Fitbit Surge is the most accurate tracker available at the time. It has the margin of error sitting at 27%, the lowest of seven device tested.

“27% is still quite noticeable…”

That is true. It is, but the sad thing is we have yet to see better results in other Fitbit devices. With Charge 4 and 5 being exception under circumstances. As even likes of Sense 2 and Versa 4 suffers from performance fluctuations, and it is not just Fitbit problem. It is everyone problem.

Common Problem Of Fitbit

Even if you would opt for say Apple Watch there is no guarantee the results would anywhere near where they should be, and there is a reason why.

Wearables aren’t meant to be accurate tracking device. They don’t have the capacity to compete with Surgical devices made for those specific purposes. Parts that are used to manufacture these trackers aren’t adaptable to changes the same way their algorithm fails to adapt to the varying conditions.

Do you know: If you would wear your Fitbit tracker on ankle it is more likely to show you better results, and by better I do mean accurate, and do you know why? Because Fitbit relies on labyrinth of other metrics it calculates to reach to a certain results, and since ankle is a place where there is less chances of futile data recording (hand movement while writing or swatting hands skew the data) and clean contact with veins that can improve heart rate output better. You are bound to get improved results, but of course no one spends hundreds of dollar to hide their shiny health tracker.

Uncommon Solution For Fitbit

While there is little surety whether these methods work, but experts and users have reportedly seen better results by doing the following:

  • Updating the data about height, weight, gender, and body mass.
  • Being pro-active to make sure Fitbit doesn’t remain in stale mood.
  • Changing the position on wrist, it is recommended to make sure there is always enough contact between your tracker and upper layer of skin cells.
  • Use of non-dominant arm or any other part of body that suits the tracker better.

Other Alternatives To Try Out

There is no fitness tracker that is wearable for arms which could be considered alternative at the moment. All of them are made from the same cloth with same limitations. However, a graduate from Stanford University has found a way to deal with less accurate numbers.

While the creation is meant to be strapped around your leg, and is based on two sensors with wires connecting the both. It is has been reported the results from the device are quite promising. Yes, there is general issue of its commercial usage, but with time and money anything is possible.

So Is Fitbit Calories Accurate Or Not?

If you came here for the answer of “Are Fitbit Calories Burned Accurate?

I am quite sorry to see you off with a disappointing look at your face. It is always a sad sight to realize the very technology we take pride in has its own obstacles to overcome. However, I feel there is much hope to take away from the prospect that looms in the future. For sure, it is true at the moment we don’t have health trackers that can be accurate to the 0.1 difference, I feel it’d be a foolish mistake to believe it won’t be possible in coming time.

Fitbit Charge 4 was better than Fitbit Surge

Fitbit Charge 5 is better than Fitbit Charge 4

Who knows what’s in store for tomorrow, but that there is tomorrow.

Frequently Asked Questions

As discussed above it could be due to number of possibilities: tracker overestimating, wrong entry of data, and hand movement skewing the results.

In a way, yes, it would. Although it would be counted towards BMR reading and Fitbit will calculate it based on your entered data under the timeframe of midnight til the time you got up.

Despite the innate lack of accuracy your tracker, regardless of whether its Fitbit or not, can give you good estimation of calories burned. 

Yes. Fitbit Charge 2 was found to be overestimating 53% of its results so yes it is possible.

Ezhan Javed

CMO At Chronoat

“What am I if not the words I write?” is something I’ve asked myself quite often. So, I feel it is my duty being CMO at Chronoat to not only write to inform but inspire.

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