Do activity trackers monitor your heart rate accurately?

Do activity trackers monitor heart rate correctly?

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Activity trackers claim to measure all types of personal fitness information, like your heart rate. But are they really accurate?

Heartland News put the products to the test for you and compared the trackers’ heart rate count to a machine’s result at SoutheastHEALTH’s Cardiovascular Consultants’ office.

Stephanie Jansen doesn’t take a single step without her watch, so a nurse hooked her up to a stress test that measures the electrical functions of her heart.

After walking on the treadmill for about six minutes, her watch read 156 beats per minute and the machine at the cardiologist’s office showed 157 beats per minute.

“I know I have to take care of my cardiovascular health,” Stephanie Jansen said.

It’s something she realized after her brother came inside from playing in the yard about seven years ago.

“And he came inside and was like mom I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know what’s going on. And you could see the veins in his neck pounding. And we were like just take deep breaths, just take deep breaths. You just got worked up about something. And then we were like this isn’t normal,” she said.

Doctors diagnosed him with a heart condition, the main reason Jansen knows she needs to stay active and pay attention to her Fitbit.

“I think about that every time that I look at my heart rate,” said Jansen.

Dr. Steven Carr, a Cardiologist at SoutheastHEALTH wears an Apple Watch. He said these devices make us more aware of our bodies.

“I’m a little bit obsessed with it at times someone may say, but I do like to use it when I’m exercising kind of see where my heart rate is,” said Dr. Carr.

In certain situations, he said activity trackers might notify people about possible heart conditions.

“The biggest thing obviously is if we have an alert that there is an irregular heart rhythm, we worry about a rhythm called atrial fibrillation, and the reason is, is that puts us at risk for having a stroke,” he said. "It’s not gonna be a hundred percent accurate. But I think it’s accurate more often than not.”

Dr. Carr said if your heart rate is between 120 and 130 while you’re sitting a resting, it’s recommended to go see a cardiologist.

Back in the exam room, we checked in with Nurse Teresa Asher who monitored the comparison test on the treadmill.

“I would say that it’s pretty much right on the money. Yeah very close. Very accurate,” said Asher.

Those results are reassuring for Jansen.

“It makes me know that I’m doing something right. Like it’s accurate. I’ve always kind of wondered it. But now I know,” said Jansen.

Both Apple and Fitbit both mention on their websites several factors affect how well their devices monitor your heart rate. Where you wear the device, certain movements when you’re working out, and how it comes in contact with your skin are just a few of the things to check.

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Posted by KFVS-TV on Tuesday, May 7, 2019

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