What’s Better: Wrist-Based or Hip-Based Activity Trackers?

When looking at the health and fitness device market, there are two major types of trackers to evaluate:  wrist-based and hip-based models.  Each type of tracker has their advantages and disadvantages.  It is critical to evaluate our lifestyle when deciding which tracker type would be most appropriate:  are you a fashionista with a large collection of more formal business attire, or are you a guy who basically lives in active wear and gym gear?  Let’s try to get a handle on the relative advantages and appeal of each type of fitness tracker…

Wearing Considerations

The advantage of trackers that are based on the wrist is that these trackers may be more easily worn when a person has clothing without bets, belt loops, etc. and where the shirt would not be tucked into the lower garment.  In many cases this applies to a woman’s blouse and skirt combination.  Using a hip-based tracker when wearing a skirt and blouse combination, where the blouse is not tucked in to the skirt is difficult, as it would require attaching the tracker so that the rubber clip would rub directly against the skin.  For men, who routinely wear pants with pockets and/or belt loops, this issue does not usually arise.

Accuracy Considerations

The disadvantage of wrist based counters is that they are inherently inaccurate, counting 20 steps for the FuelBand when just brushing my teeth for two minutes. The FitBit One, when placed in the wrist strap (usually reserved for sleep only), counted 10 extra steps in the same time period.   When mounted on the hip, as is standard practice during the day, the Fitbit One, expectedly counted no steps.  When seated and talking with my hands for five min, the FuelBand and the Jawbone UP counted nearly 50 steps.  The Fitbit One counted none, as it was mounted on my hip.  For a person with an already active lifestyle, 300 or 400 daily extra steps counted due to arm movement really doesn’t matter in the final analysis.  But when you are a sedentary person wanting to lose weight, such an over counting of steps can be a large percentage of your daily total, generating an incorrect presumption of calories burned. This can end up having a small, but consistent negative impact on one’s battle against the bulge.

Conclusion

For those people who have a wardrobe that is conducive to hip-based fitness trackers, and who value higher levels of accuracy, hip-based trackers are generally more appropriate.  For people with wardrobe constraints, wrist-based trackers may present a viable option.

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