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"I can't beliefi
it's n o t wood. Smarter choices
for a better world
Flooring's fabulous AUGUST 2017 CR.ORG
new fakes
Percentage of Americans
who a g r e e t h a t using a fitness
r0 l I < tracker helped them

Achieue
Become weight
aware goals
Feel of sleep
332mg healthier quality
active ouerall

The latest ratings from o u r labs
Source: Consumer Reports 2017 survey of
1,007 fitness‐tracker users.

{02’
Man rate

111561.51
TO m‘rom

Walk
This
Way
Fitness trackers
are more
accurate than
ever, our tests
show. But
knowing how
to use them to
improve your
health is
not as simple
as 1‐2‐3.
by Brendan
Borrell
FITNESS TRACKERS A R E getting detect the slightest of body movements,
better and better at what they’re LEDs that flash light through your skin
primarily designed to do: count your to measure blood flow, galvanic sensors
steps and measure your heart rate. that measure changes in electrical con‑
Twenty-two of the 27 trackers in our nectivity caused by sweat, gyroscopes
ratings now earn a top score in step Will Counting that sense when you stand up or lie
counting, and nine of the 13models down, GPS receivers that can track how
Your ZZZ's far you walk or r u n , and altimeters that
that measure heart rate are excellent
in that. What’s more, the step-count
Improve Your show changes in elevation.
feature n o w built into many smart‑ Sleep? Together, those features allow fitness
" watches and smartphones is generally trackers to n o t just count steps but also
accurate, too, we found. to estimate your heart rate, exercise
SOME TRACKERS claim
But beyond technical proficiency, to record how much intensity, flights of stairs climbed,
will trackers help you reach the goals and how well you sleep hours slept, and calories burned.
you have for using one? Things that, by measuring your Though sales of dedicated fitness
bedtime tossing and
presumably, include being more active, trackers are waning‐market leader
turning, plus your heart
losing weight, and feeling healthier. rate. That information, Fitbit expects revenue to drop by
For some people, the answer is yes, the theory goes, can about 22 percent this year compared
according to a nationally representative help sensitize you to your with last‐activity tracking is still
sleep patterns, and sleep
Consumer Reports survey of 1,007 U S . better as a result. big business, with that company
adults‐though the survey also makes it Fitbit, for example, alone projecting revenue of up to
clear that you can’t expect miracles. worked with Stanford $1.7 billion in 2017.
Instead, o u r survey suggests‐and University scientists on Smartphones, which now count steps,
software that uses your
experts we spoke with agree‐that you sleep data to estimate and smartwatches, which also track
should View trackers as one tool in a how much time you heart rate, are pickingup the sales
comprehensive effort to be more active, spend in light vs. deep slack. Trackers are also increasingly
sleep, and to develop
lose weight, and improve your health. advice designed for you.
being fashioned into less obtrusive
For example, though most people in But experts we con‑ designs, like necklaces, or being
our survey did n o t report that trackers sulted aren't convinced. incorporated into other products, like
helped them feel healthier, a minority For one thing, trackers headphones. (See “Is a Smartphone or
don't reliably "differentiate
did: Twenty-four percent said the de‑ between quiet wakeful‑ Smartwatch a Good Enough Tracker?”
vices helped them achieve their weight‑ ness and light sleep," says on page 10, for more on the pros and
loss goals, 15percent said they made Kelly,Baron,,Ph.D., at cons of some of those alternatives.)
Rush University Medical
them feel healthier, and 14percent said
School, who wrote abodt
they helped make them more active. trackers in the Journal of Moving Targets
Those who endorse the devices are Clinical Sleep Medicine. The idea behind fitness tracking is that
quite enthusiastic, saying trackers As a result, they may knowledge is power‐knowing how
overestimate sleep.
helped them overcome decades of bad And even if the trackers many steps you take each day can
habits. Wendy Beck, a 64-year-old in are accurate, they may encourage you to take more of them.
Sacramento, Calif, bought the first not always help people Though trackers do seem to help
sleep better. For example,
Fitbit when it was released in 2011 and make some people be more active,
Baron says that although
has used one regularly ever since. the devices may encourage it’s clear that doesn’t happen automati‑
“I’ve always wanted to make sure I some people to make cally. For example, a 2016 study of 800
got my daily 10,000 steps,” she says, good sleep more of a Singaporeans in The Lancet Diabetes
priority, or to talk with
referencing a common goal‐about & Endocrinology‐one of the longest,
, a doctor, they could also
5 miles‐that many fitness trackers set unintentionally worsen largest, and best designed studies to
for themselves. “I’ve lost weight, and it sleep by making you date‐found that after a year, people
improved my blood pressure.” overly anxious about using trackers Walked an average of just
getting enough of it. And,
she says, they can even an additional 37 minutes each week.
Tiny Technical Marvels foster bad sleep habits, Not surprisingly, most people in
Today’s trackers pack an impressive such as lying in bed even that study neither lowered their blood
when you’re not tired.
array of sophisticated electrical compo‑ pressure nor lost weight.
nents. These include accelerometers to One reason the devices don’t seem

PHOTOGRAPH BY DAN SAELINGER AUGUST 2017 CR.ORG 9
Product Updates

to help much when it comes to weight virtual challenges. “ I t just makes me Watch what y o u eat. If you want to lose
loss could be that their calorie-counting get up and move,” Beck says. weight, diet is key, no matter how much
feature‐which uses factors such as Reward yourself. Financial or other you exercise or what device you use.
activity level, gender, and weight to incentives might also help, says Mitesh “You can never out-train a bad diet,”
estimate how much energy you b u r n ‑ Patel, M D , at the Penn Medicine Center says Ross Steiner of Steiner Strength in
may n o t be very accurate. for Health Care Innovation, Perelman San Francisco. “I don’t care how many
We have n o t tested that, but Stanford School of Medicine in Philadelphia. steps you do.” And resist the urge to use
University researchers recently That can be especially t r u e when you’re a workout asan excuse to splurge on a
did. They took precise metabolic mea‑ starting. He recommends trying an app big meal, he says. Though the calorie‑
surements from 60 volunteers and com‑ that gives cash rewards for meeting counting feature on trackers may n o t
pared results with estimates from seven your goals. One such app is‘StickK.com, be very accurate, many pair with apps,
fitness trackers. All of the devices were a program developed by behavioral such asMyFitnessPal, that have food
off by at least 27 percent, and the least economists at Yale University that lets databases, allowing you to record what
accurate was off by 93 percent. you set a goal and a monetary stake and you eat. That could make you more con‑
have a friend enforce it. scious of what you eat and prompt you
Secrets to Success Keep it simple. Eric Topol, M D , a to make wiser food choices.
Sowhy do trackers seem to help some cardiologist and digital-medicine re‑ Stick w i t h i t . O u r survey and other
people but n o t others? Our surveyfiplus searcher at Scripps Research Institute in research suggest that many people give
interviews with experts, uncovered La Jolla, Calif, tells patients that if they up on trackers within a few months.
some strategies that can help you get ‘ don’t want another electronic device in But more than a quarter of people in
more o u t of your device. their lives, and don’t want to track their our survey who currently wear their
Be social. Using the devices with heart rate, they can just use their smart‑ device havebeen using it for one to
others can be a powerful motivator. phones to count their steps. t w o years, and 16percent have been
Fitbit says that people who use the Think in bouts. Many trackers now al‑ using it for more thantwo. Soif you can
devices with online friends lag an low users to schedule “Move” alerts af‑ force yourself to stick with a tracker
average of 700 more steps per day t e r every, say, 30 minutes of inactivity. through that initial period, using the
than those who go solo. Wendy Beck And research suggests that long periods device‐and regular exercise‐could be
agrees, competing with other users in of sitting can be especially harmful. m o r e likely to become a lifelong habit.

Is a Smartphone or Smartwatch
a Good Enough Tracker?

MANY SMARTPHQNES an excellent stand-alone women that tracks steps _
n o w come 'with a‘builtein fitness tracker, we found. » but not heart rate. As Smartwatch fitness
step counter. And smart‑ Still, Charles David‑ a clip-on and necklace,
watches often track feature ratings
man, who oversees CR's it rated Excellent in our
”steps plusyyour heart _ fitness-trnckertesting, step‐counting tests;
rate. So’why bother ' cautions that smart‑ as a bracelet, it scored
investing in a stand‑ phones m a y miss some Very Good.
alone fitness tracker? steps, simply because ‘ Smartwatches are
,ConsumeryRepforts, , .many people, don't carry - another (when. They can
tested step counting _ the'devices everywhere. record both steps and Samsung Apple Gurmin Motorola
on an iPhone 7 and a Gear S3 Watch i Fenix5 Moto 360
And most don't offer . heart rate, and several Frontier SeriesZ $600 5 (2nd gen.)
Samsung Galaxy 8. The heart-rate monitoring, models‐~including those $300 (42mm) SS 3 (46mm)
phones-were carried an important feature for shown at right‐did well Case $700 $350
in a front pants pocket, fitness buffs. in our tests. They also
a shoulder bag, and a Consumer Reports also allow the use of a whole Step-Count Accuracy
runner's armband:
When each phone’s‑
‘ scores Were averaged,
tested the Leaf Silver
Edition Health Tracker,
array of apps.
CRO subscribers can 6 e i e é e
a device geared to see full smartwatch Heart-Rate Accuracy
both counted steps ratings at CR.org/
e g e g o
\

‘ about as accurately as smartwatchesOS‘lZ 6

10 CR.0RG AUGUST 2017
Ratings ) Fitness Trackers Start with accurate step 9 a o o 6 ' 9 a
counting and heart‐rate monitoring, then look mm .c , EXCELLENT . CRBEST BUY RECOMMENDED
at the features that matter most to you.

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DATA READOUT ON TRACKER AND SMARTPHONE APP

' Q 1 Fitbit Surge $250 6 6 6 O o o u

o 2 TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music $250 _ 6 6 6 6 0

a 3 Garmin Forerunner 35 $200 _ «6 6 6 6 D O

a 4 TomTom Spark Cardio+Music $200 _ 6 6 6 6 I

6 5 Fitbil: Charge 2 $150 _ 6 6 O O o lo o

6 6 Garmin Vivosmart HR $120 _ 6 6 6 6 o 2 o

a 7 Fitblt Blaze 2 $200 _ 6 6 O Q 0 ._ o

6 8 Huawei Fit $130 _ 6 6 O 6 o o

0 9 Garmin Vivosmart HR-l ’ I I $130 6 6 6 6 o o 7' 2- I

6 10 Withings Steel HR $145 _ O 6 O 6

9 11 Fitbit Alta I L I I $130 _' 6 6 NA o o o

Q 12 Garmin Vivoactive HR $250 0 6 6 6 o o o o

0 13 Sumsung Gear Fit2 - $180 O 6 6 6 a * q! o .f

a 14 Under Armour Band $80 a 6 NA a O O O

15 ,PolarLoepz . - , $70 _ O 6 NA . O ‘ o t

16 Polar A300 $100 _ O Q NA 6 o I o

17 Garmin Vivofits $100 a- _ O 6 NA 6 . t. g 7

18 Polar A360 $170 _ O a 6 6 o o o

19 Gurmin Vivoactive‘ $190 w _o 6 NA 6 O l O 0 O o

20 Garmin Vivofit2 $70 a o l o NA 6 o l 0

DATA READOUT ON SMARTPHONE APP O N LY

1 Withings Go; V I 7 L $50 _ o 6 NA ' 6 a o _

2 Misfit Shine 2 $60 E- O 6 NA 6 o o

3 Gnrmin Vivomové ‘ $120 _ ° 6 NA 6 ~. U. 7l
4 Misfit Ray $80 m o 6 NA 6 7

5 Fitbit F l e x 2 , - L , $60 m 0 6 NA 6 1'

6 XiaomiMiBand Pulse $20 I_ O O NA : 6 l

7 Moov Now $60 a , o : NA NA ' 6 l . '0

h For full descriptions of all fitness trackers in o u r ratings, subscribers to o u r website c a n go to CR.org/tracker50817.

H o w WETEST: We calculate Overall use the device's controls, sync with a For Heart-Rate Monitor Accuracy, we equivalent to the depth that the
Score based on ease of use, step- smartphone, and read the display in compare the device's reading with the manufacturer claims the watch c a n
count accuracy, heart-rate monitor bright and low light. For Step-Count reading from a chest-strap heart-rate withstand. We also note additional
accuracy, and other factors. For Ease Accuracy, we compare the tracker’s monitor. For Water Resistance, we features the devices have, such as GPS
of Use, we consider how easy it is to count with that of a manual pedometer. subject the device to water pressure tracking and an activity alert.

AUGUST 2017 CR.0RG 11