Not all mHealth activity trackers are created equal, study finds

When it comes to accuracy of data from mHealth fitness tools and wearables, not all stats can be trusted, according to new research.

While health trackers are doing a decent job capturing data such as burned calories, they're not so great with accurate insight on measurements such as strength training, according to a study from Iowa State University (ISU) Department of Kinesiology researchers.

The team tested four fitness trackers and two research monitors to find out their accuracy in tracking aerobic, sedentary and resistance activity.

The BodyMedia Core landed as top performer, with a rate of error of 15.3 percent; the least accurate was the Misfit Shine, which produced a 30.4 percent error rate.

The research, published at Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, notes that the Fitbit Flex, Jawbone UP 24 and the Nike+Fuelband SE showed "reasonably accurate" total EE [energy expenditure] estimates.

"By looking at the most commonly performed activities in exercise and daily living settings, we can examine where the errors occur," Yang Bai, lead author and a graduate research assistant in kinesiology, said in an announcement. "As expected, some monitors overestimate or underestimate all three activities, but some monitors overestimate one type and underestimate the other two categories, which can cancel out if we don't measure them separately."

A recent report by AARP Project Catalyst, focusing on fitness and mHealth device use, found that many users discontinued use during a research effort citing data inaccuracy.

In addition, healthcare apps can't always be trusted. There are too many invading the marketplace, with many going unvetted, according to an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For more information:
- here's the ISU announcement
- read the study abstract