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Do Fitness Trackers Measure Strength Training Correctly?

Here's How You Can Set Your Fitness Tracker For More Accurate Results

Ever glanced at your fitness tracker while weightlifting and wondered why it was completely off? Your device may be fantastic for tracking heart rate and cardio, but a common weakness found across wearables is the ability to detect strength-training exercises. That's because Fitbit's PurePulse technology and Apple's similar heart sensor technology use LED lights to detect the amount of blood flow in your wrist. This provides real-time data on your heart rate and calories burned, but they're much more suited for tracking rhythmic movements like dance cardio or running. The good news is that there are tips and tricks to better optimize your device's settings to make sure your workouts are accounted for.

Fitbit Tips

  • Customize your exercise shortcuts on the Fitbit app to include "Weights" as one of the Exercise options on your Fitbit Blaze, Fitbit Charge 2, Fitbit Ionic, or Fitbit Versa. According to Fitbit, this will provide you with more precise heart rate tracking, capturing it every one second versus every five seconds.
  • You can also manually log the duration of your strength-training workout directly in the app.
  • Fitbit also offers a built-in interval timer that you can customize to fit your workout. It vibrates and lights up to indicate when it's time to move or rest.

Apple Watch Tips

  • Select the "Other" workout option on your Apple Watch and label it as "Strength Training" at the end of your workout. It will provide you with time, heart rate, and calories for that specific session.
  • When you're holding a plank, for instance, the "Other" workout will still credit you the calorie equivalent of a brisk walk, while also counting toward your all-day Activity.

If you're in a mixed-format class like Barry's Bootcamp, where you switch from the treadmill to floor, you can also manually switch between exercise modes. It may not give you a comprehensive look at your entire workout, but you can at least get more accurate snapshots of individual exercises for measuring purposes.

Despite the challenges that smart watches and fitness trackers have, San Francisco-based trainer Austin Lopez encourages all of his clients, especially his remote ones, to wear a Fitbit. At the end of each week, he has everyone send in their weekly reports for accountability and progress.

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"In terms of goals, it comes down to consistency," Lopez told POPSUGAR. "The wearables help maintain consistency by notifying you of daily activity levels being reached, workout goal progress, and other healthy habits. As a trainer, it is helpful because I don't have to send hundreds of reminders a day, rather, I check in with my clients' overall lifestyle in a week's time."

When using his personal Fitbit during workouts, Austin shoots for a certain number of burned calories per session. Regardless of whether or not that number is accurate, setting a benchmark can help him gauge how hard he worked. You can do the same by giving your next workout everything you've got to see the maximum amount of calories you can burn on your tracker. Then, compare your future workouts to that data for a better look at your progress.

Overall, get familiar with your device and figure out all the ways you can tailor it to you. Its default settings may be great to start off with, but you can manipulate your Apple Watch or Fitbit past the main screen to truly use it to its fullest potential. Keep in mind that although they may not be the most accurate at all times, they're fantastic for tracking your personal activity and progress, and there's value in that alone.

Image Source: Unsplash / Crew
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