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Activity tracker popularity rises

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Wearable activity trackers that promise to monitor physical activity, sleep and more are becoming increasingly popular with health-conscious consumers. A recent study led by researchers from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and RTI International found that the trackers are better at measuring some metrics than others.

Kelly Evenson, Ph.D., is a research professor of epidemiology at the Gillings School and a RTI University Scholar. She is the lead author of a new study titled, “Systematic review of the validity and reliability of consumer-wearable activity trackers,” published online December 18, 2015 by the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Overall, the systematic review indicated higher validity of step counting, inconclusive findings (based on few studies) for distance and physical activity, and lower validity for calories (energy expenditure) and sleep.

To make trackers as accurate as possible, the authors suggest some strategies for device wearers.

“When researching information on the trackers, we learned several tips users may be able to implement to make their tracker more accurate,” Evenson said.

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