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Why fitness wearables may be a waste of money

Wearable fitness devices like pulse monitors and step trackers are everywhere these days, but new research has indicated that they might not be any more effective at tracking your workouts than the phones they connect to.

Academics at the University of Pennsylvania recently published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) which suggests that our smartphones do just as good a job at keeping tabs on our step counts as dedicated fitness trackers.

Their study involved putting 14 subjects on a treadmill to walk 500 and then 1,500 steps. The process was then repeated, and after each repetition the steps counted by each device were recorded. Results showed a disparity of less than 7% between six dedicated monitors and their smartphone opposition.

It has to be noted that the study did not analyse the very latest trackers and wearables on the market, but the findings are certainly worth considering if you’re mulling over buying a fitness tracker.

Almost all modern smartphones come packing GPS, accelerometers and other means of tracking your motions, while the likes of Apple’s App Store and Google Play sport dozens of exercise apps that perform all of the functions most casual fitness fans need, usually for a few pounds at most. So if you’re just trying to get yourself up to 10,000 steps a day, you needn’t rush out and buy a dedicated wristband.

Some phones such as the Galaxy S5 even have built-in heart rate monitors, so you can track more than just the distance covered in your wanderings without the need for specialist equipment.

Of course, some fitness trackers record far more than just your steps and have other handy features. For instance, the Fitbit Charge can help to keep you motivated by connecting you with mates, and also throws special awards at you every time you climb a set number of floors. Meanwhile, Sony’s Smartwatch 3 has built-in GPS and can even store music, so you can go for runs without lugging around a bulky phone at all.

Are you on the fence about buying a fitness wearable? Let us know in the comments below.


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