Accuracy and Precision of Energy Expenditure, Heart Rate, and Steps Measured by Combined-Sensing Fitbits Against Reference Measures: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Guillaume Chevance, Natalie M. Golaszewski, Elizabeth Tipton, Eric Chambers Hekler, Matthew Buman, Gregory J. Welk, Kevin Patrick, Job G. Godino

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Although it is widely recognized that physical activity is an important determinant of health, assessing this complex behavior is a considerable challenge. Objective: The purpose of this systematic review and meta-analysis is to examine, quantify, and report the current state of evidence for the validity of energy expenditure, heart rate, and steps measured by recent combined-sensing Fitbits. Methods: We conducted a systematic review and Bland-Altman meta-analysis of validation studies of combined-sensing Fitbits against reference measures of energy expenditure, heart rate, and steps. Results: A total of 52 studies were included in the systematic review. Among the 52 studies, 41 (79%) were included in the meta-analysis, representing 203 individual comparisons between Fitbit devices and a criterion measure (ie, n=117, 57.6% for heart rate; n=49, 24.1% for energy expenditure; and n=37, 18.2% for steps). Overall, most authors of the included studies concluded that recent Fitbit models underestimate heart rate, energy expenditure, and steps compared with criterion measures. These independent conclusions aligned with the results of the pooled meta-analyses showing an average underestimation of −2.99 beats per minute (k comparison=74), −2.77 kcal per minute (k comparison=29), and −3.11 steps per minute (k comparison=19), respectively, of the Fitbit compared with the criterion measure (results obtained after removing the high risk of bias studies; population limit of agreements for heart rate, energy expenditure, and steps: −23.99 to 18.01, −12.75 to 7.41, and −13.07 to 6.86, respectively). Conclusions: Fitbit devices are likely to underestimate heart rate, energy expenditure, and steps. The estimation of these measurements varied by the quality of the study, age of the participants, type of activities, and the model of Fitbit. The qualitative conclusions of most studies aligned with the results of the meta-analysis. Although the expected level of accuracy might vary from one context to another, this underestimation can be acceptable, on average, for steps and heart rate. However, the measurement of energy expenditure may be inaccurate for some research purposes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere35626
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Volume10
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • accelerometry
  • activity monitors
  • physical activity
  • validity
  • wearables

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics

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