Comparison of four Fitbit and Jawbone activity monitors with a research-grade ActiGraph accelerometer for estimating physical activity and energy expenditure

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Abstract

Background/aim

Consumer-based physical activity (PA) monitors have become popular tools to track PA behaviours. Currently, little is known about the validity of the measurements provided by consumer monitors. We aimed to compare measures of steps, energy expenditure (EE) and active minutes of four consumer monitors with one research-grade accelerometer within a semistructured protocol.

Methods

Thirty men and women (18–80 years old) wore Fitbit One (worn at the waist), Fitbit Zip (waist), Fitbit Flex (wrist), Jawbone UP24 (wrist) and one waist-worn research-grade accelerometer (ActiGraph) while participating in an 80 min protocol. A validated EE prediction equation and active minute cut-points were applied to ActiGraph data. Criterion measures were assessed using direct observation (step count) and portable metabolic analyser (EE, active minutes). A repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to compare differences between consumer monitors, ActiGraph, and criterion measures. Similarly, a repeated measures ANOVA was applied to a subgroup of subjects who didn’t cycle.

Results

Participants took 3321±571 steps, had 28±6 active min and expended 294±56 kcal based on criterion measures. Comparatively, all monitors underestimated steps and EE by 13%–32% (p<0.01); additionally the Fitbit Flex, UP24, and ActiGraph underestimated active minutes by 35%–65% (p<0.05). Underestimations of PA and EE variables were found to be similar in the subgroup analysis.

Conclusion

Consumer monitors had similar accuracy for PA assessment as the ActiGraph, which suggests that consumer monitors may serve to track personal PA behaviours and EE. However, due to discrepancies among monitors, individuals should be cautious when comparing relative and absolute differences in PA values obtained using different monitors.

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