Current State of Commercial Wearable Technology in Physical Activity Monitoring 2015-2017

Jennifer A Bunn, James W Navalta, Charles J Fountaine, Joel D Reece

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Wearable physical activity trackers are a popular and useful method to collect biometric information at rest and during exercise. The purpose of this systematic review was to summarize recent findings of wearable devices for biometric information related to steps, heart rate, and caloric expenditure for several devices that hold a large portion of the market share. Searches were conducted in both PubMed and SPORTdiscus. Filters included: humans, within the last 5 years, English, full-text, and adult 19+ years. Manuscripts were retained if they included an exercise component of 5-min or greater and had 20 or more participants. A total of 10 articles were retained for this review. Overall, wearable devices tend to underestimate energy expenditure compared to criterion laboratory measures, however at higher intensities of activity energy expenditure is underestimated. All wrist and forearm devices had a tendency to underestimate heart rate, and this error was generally greater at higher exercise intensities and those that included greater arm movement. Heart rate measurement was also typically better at rest and while exercising on a cycle ergometer compared to exercise on a treadmill or elliptical machine. Step count was underestimated at slower walking speeds and in free-living conditions, but improved accuracy at faster speeds. The majority of the studies reviewed in the present manuscript employed different methods to assess validity and reliability of wearable technology, making it difficult to compare devices. Standardized protocols would provide guidance for researchers to evaluate research-grade devices as well as commercial devices used by the lay public.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)503-515
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Exercise Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Mar 16 2018

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Editorial

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