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Are fitness trackers giving marathon runners a false sense of security?

Just days ahead of this weekend’s annual London Marathon, UK consumer group Which? has pulled together an interesting dataset. It shows that data churned out by some popular fitness trackers and smartwatches may not be all that its cracked up to be.

Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets

Which? tested some 85 fitness trackers, watches and smartwatches for accuracy when it comes to keeping tabs on steps, distance, heart-rate and calories burned. The results showed marked differences not only across brands, but also across devices belonging to the same brand.

So, for example, while Misfit devices on average ranked high in terms of accuracy, its Misfit Ray fitness tracker showed a 32% shortfall in terms of calculating the marathon distance. This equates to 8 miles!

On average, Garmin and Huawei wearables proved most accurate, while Pebble and Samsung were most wide off the mark. It should be stressed, this data is based on the accuracy of distance calculated based purely on steps.

Here is how the brands stacked up against each other.

Brand Marathon distance (26.2 miles) Percentage difference from marathon distance
Samsung 22.55 -14%
Polar 25.17 -4%
TomTom 25.17 -4%
Fitbit  25.43 -3%
Misfit 25.69 -2%
Garmin  25.69 -2%
Huawei 25.96 -1%
Withings 27.53 +5%
Apple 28.05 +7
Pebble 30.68 +17%
*Data is based on the accuracy of distance calculated based on steps.

While inaccuracy may not present a problem over short distances, it could leave marathon runners gasping for breath miles away from the finish line. If athletes relied purely on their trusty fitness device, some would not cross the finish line while others may end up running much further than the 26.2 mile mark!

One way, of course, to resolve this is just to purchase a fitness tracker or smartwatch with built in GPS. This adds bucks to the purchase price, but it pretty much guarantees accuracy.

Check out the full infographic from Which? below.

is your fitness tracker giving you a false sense of security - Are fitness trackers giving marathon runners a false sense of security?
Image source: Which

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