Wearable fitness trackers like the Fitbit and the Nike Fuelband have become a booming market, with designers like Tory Burch even getting in on the action. And hey, anything that gets us off our butts and moving more throughout the day is a good thing, right? But some recent research says you might be better off skipping the pricey device (most sell for upwards up $100) and just downloading a step-tracking app instead.
A study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) put tracking devices and smartphone apps head to head and found that most apps are just as accurate at tracking our activity. The University of Pennsylvania researchers recruited 14 healthy adults and ech one wore a few waistband devices, a couple wrist devices and smartphones in their pockets running a few different apps each. After getting all wired up, they did a series of treadmill trials, walking either 500 or 1,500 steps, and recording exactly how many they took.
After testing 10 of the top-selling apps and devices, researchers found that the data from the smartphone apps were only slightly off from the actual step count. The step count on the wearable devices differed way more.
The study authors add that not only do apps seem to be more accurate, but they’re more widely used anyway. “Compared to the 1 to 2% of adults in the U.S. that own a wearable device, more than 65% of adults carry a smartphone,” senior author Mitesh S. Patel, M.D., M.B.A., M.S., assistant professor of Medicine and Health Care Management at Penn and an attending physician at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, said in a press release. “Our findings suggest that smartphone apps could prove to be a more widely accessible and affordable way of tracking health behaviors.” So if you’re thinking of purchasing a wearable fitness tracker, consider checking out these top fitness apps instead.