Wearable fitness trackers with calorie-burn counters can be great motivators when it comes to working out. But are they reliable when it comes to real weight loss?
When you’re trying to lose weight, you’re aiming for a daily calorie deficit—intaking less calories than you burn. Maybe your wearable device indicates you’ve burned 700 calories at a cardio kickboxing class. Does that mean you should indulge in that dessert after dinner?
A new study suggests fitness trackers are largely inaccurate when counting calories and can sabotage your efforts to lose weight.
Calorie Counters off by up to 93%
While popular brands, like Fitbit, have sold over 30 million tracking devices, according to Stanford researchers, the daily energy expenditure of calories tracked by such devices is often markedly incorrect.
In fact, the least accurate device, PulseOn, was off by an average of 93 percent. The most accurate device, Fitbit Surge, was off by an average of 27 percent.
So, what kind of implications does this have on health? Let’s say you discover you’ve burned nearly 1,000 calories in one day. In reality, you only burned 700. Based on your results, you decide to sneak in that extra glass of wine over dinner since you’ve met your daily goal—or so you think. Over time, these extra indulgences start to add up.
According to Tim Church, professor of preventive medicine at Louisiana State University, “people constantly check these inaccurate counts, thinking they’ve earned an extra dessert. Instead, they’re sabotaging their weight loss program without even knowing it.”
A Better Way to Think About Calories
Today’s fitness culture is largely focused on changing people’s bodies through weight loss and calorie counting. At the end of the day, this “get the perfect body” concept leaves us feeling bad about how we look and prompts us to buy things we don’t need. If you’ve found yourself paying too much attention to calories burned, here are six things to focus on instead.
One of the great things about weight training is that you don’t need a tracker to see how much strength you’ve gained. A good weight training routine, like Gymondo’s Triple Strength program, includes incremental increases in duration and time under tension, which makes you look and feel stronger every time you complete a workout. And isn’t seeing results much more interesting than tracking them?
Your Progress Over Time
Instead of focusing solely on calories burned, pay attention to your progress. Let’s say you’re into running. Be cognizant of how you’re able to run further in less time or achieve more distance as time goes by. It’s an amazing sense of accomplishment when you realize just how much progress you’ve made since the start of your fitness journey.
Your Workouts Get Easier
No matter what type of workout you’re doing—HIIT, cardio, weight training—it’s going to get easier as you do it more consistently. Revel in your newfound sense of stamina and celebrate your milestones. While it might be hard in the beginning, stick with it and expect it to get easier and easier as time goes by.
Your Heart Rate
Have you ever completed a workout where your heart rate feels like it’s beating out of your chest? That’s a good thing! Keeping an eye on your heart rate gives you a good idea of how intense your workout is. After an intense training session, you won’t even need to see how many calories you’ve burned—you’ll be too busy reveling in how accomplished you feel.
Your Muscle Burn
If you’ve just completed a workout and haven’t even broken a sweat, you’re probably not pushing yourself hard enough. Anyone who’s just completed a great workout knows the feeling of “muscle burn” immediately afterward and the good ache that accompanies it a few days later. These bearable aches and pains mean you’re burning calories, getting stronger and making progress, so focus on how your muscles feel.
Your Improved Health
Whether you feel good because you’ve just worked out or because you’re proud you made it through another training session, focus on how great you feel. You’re committed to your health and you’re making progress daily. Isn’t that so much better than constantly thinking about how many calories you’ve burned?
Your health and wellness is so much more than tracking calories. Start paying attention to the things that matter—improved strength, progress over time, your heart rate, how exhausted your muscles are after a workout and how great you feel. Over time, things will get easier and you’ll start seeing results. Just stick to it and enjoy the ride!
Don’t know where to start? Explore 20+ diverse fitness programs, 200+ challenging workouts and 1000+ foodie-grade recipes in the Gymondo app.