Goats, Australians, and Heart Rates: The Plight of the Inaccurate Fitness Tracker

Even though 28% of Americans report cycling for exercise or health, one group of Australian bike enthusiasts took a long bike ride just for a picture and a few laughs.

A 124-mile long bike ride, to be exact.

Australian Ben Jones had an interesting idea that combined creativity, a fitness tracker, and his cycling group the Fight Club. Their goal? To take a bike ride that when mapped out, would look like a picture of a goat.

Why a goat? The cyclist explained to ABC Perth that “Goats are badass and they’re an easy animal to draw in profile.

The Fight Club was all about this adventure, and even braced some 1,746 meters (5,728 feet) of elevation to get the perfect shot.

Their next adventure may not be for a little bit because Jones is expecting a baby with his partner, but when the Fight Club gets back on their bikes, we can expect another interesting photo. They are prepared to do another animal map, except this time they are planning on mapping out a quokka, a numbat, or another West Australian animal.

The mobile app they used is Strava, which is an app made specifically for runners and cyclists as a means to track their progress. However, while it can be cool to map out your trail in the shape of your favorite animal, these fitness apps have been coming under fire for not being an accurate way to measure fitness efforts.

Within the past few years, fitness trackers have grown to be exceptionally popular as a way for individuals to track their heart rate, calories burned, and stairs climbed during workouts. These have been touted as being exceptionally helpful for those who want to exercise and lose weight, but new research has shown that their heart-rate accuracy is skewed.va-obesity

Dr. Marc Gillinov of the American College of Cardiology released a report explaining that fitness trackers, such as the Fitbit, are not nearly as accurate as they claim. In some cases, their heart beat monitors can be up to 34 beats a minute off, and they can sometimes overestimate or underestimate the heart’s activity.

Gillinov explains to Tuscon.com, that if someone needs to monitor their heart rate because of fitness or health needs, it is a better idea to use a standardized chest strap monitors. This is because the fitness tracker doesn’t measure heart rate, instead, it tracks blood flow via optical sensing, meaning it looks at the volume of blood in one’s tissue.

Plus, there could be additional factors such as inadequate contact with skin, a person’s skin color, and accumulation of sweat that can alter the accuracy of the fitness monitor.

In response to Gillinov’s claims, Fitbit has released a statement explaining that their devices are more versatile than chest monitors but yet they are still effective.

“We stand behind our heart-tracking technology. Fitbit trackers are not intended to be medical devices,” Fitbit said in a statement. “Unlike chest straps, wrist-based trackers fit conveniently and comfortably into everyday life, providing continuous heart rate for up to several days without recharging,” Fitbit explained in a statement.

So all in all, in terms of goat photos, fitness trackers can be exceptionally helpful. But knowing a person’s specific heart rate and calories burned? Not so much.

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