Research shows that wearables like smartwatches are poor at tracking calories

However, they are great at tracking heart rate and steps taken, both of which are important for health

Apple Watch Series 6, an example smartwatch

Smartwatches and fitness bands are used today by people to maintain their health and fitness. They are very convenient as they are small and compact, and you don’t have to snatch your phone out of your pocket every time just to see your records every day. Some smartwatches can also do calls and play music, which adds to the convenience.

Smartwatches are advertised often to track certain things like heart rate, blood-oxygen, and even calories. A paper published last January has shown that smartwatches are inefficient in tracking calories, but they are great for tracking heart rate and steps taken when walking.

Of course, as this is technically a research paper, we won’t get into the technical details on how this research was conducted, as it’s going to take us about 50 pages just to do that and we’re not here to waste your time. One thing to note, this was tested with small samples, both male and female. Even with that, this could give you an idea how effective a smartwatch really is.

Three smartwatches were used for this research: The Apple Watch Series 6, Polar Vantage V, and FitBit Sense.

From the table above, volunteers were asked to do the following activities with the three smartwatches: Sitting, walking, Running, Resistance Exercise, and Cycling. These activities burn large amounts of calories in a short period of time, making them perfect to observe whether the smartwatches accurately track the total calorie loss.

We won’t be listing the results one by one as that takes too much time. In general, all three smartwatches performed poorly in tracking the calories of the samples based on the given activities. Another similar research was done but with different wearables used, which showed almost the same results.

In the same research, the Apple Watch 6 is consistent in how it tracked heart rate based on all the activities tested. The latter two seem to fluctuate, giving inconsistent results. Another good news is that all three smartwatches are on-point in tracking number of steps taken by the samples in each activity.

As this research is related to a previous research which showed similar results but with different devices, it is safe to conclude that current smartwatches are terrible in tracking calories but they are accurate in terms of heart rate and steps taken, both of which are important on an exercise.

We guess that you should just track your calories manually until smartwatches are accurate enough to track them.

Source: Stronger By Science, National Library of Medicine (Abstract, full article locked via paywall)