How accurate are the wrist-based heart rate monitors during walking and running activities? Are they accurate enough?

Sarah E. Stahl, Hyun Sung An, Danae M. Dinkel, John M. Noble, Jung Min Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations


Background Heart rate (HR) monitors are valuable devices for fitness-orientated individuals. There has been a vast influx of optical sensing blood flow monitors claiming to provide accurate HR during physical activities. These monitors are worn on the arm and wrist to detect HR with photoplethysmography (PPG) techniques. Little is known about the validity of these wearable activity trackers. Aim Validate the Scosche Rhythm (SR), Mio Alpha (MA), Fitbit Charge HR (FH), Basis Peak (BP), Microsoft Band (MB), and TomTom Runner Cardio (TT) wireless HR monitors. Methods 50 volunteers (males: n=32, age 19-43 years; females: n=18, age 19-38 years) participated. All monitors were worn simultaneously in a randomised configuration. The Polar RS400 HR chest strap was the criterion measure. A treadmill protocol of one 30 min bout of continuous walking and running at 3.2, 4.8, 6.4, 8.0, and 9.6 km/h (5 min at each protocol speed) with HR manually recorded every minute was completed. Results For group comparisons, the mean absolute percentage error values were: 3.3%, 3.6%, 4.0%, 4.6%, 4.8% and 6.2% for TT, BP, RH, MA, MB and FH, respectively. Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient (r) was observed: r=0.959 (TT), r=0.956 (MB), r=0.954 (BP), r=0.933 (FH), r=0.930 (RH) and r=0.929 (MA). Results from 95% equivalency testing showed monitors were found to be equivalent to those of the criterion HR (±10% equivalence zone: 98.15-119.96). Conclusions The results demonstrate that the wearable activity trackers provide an accurate measurement of HR during walking and running activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere000106
JournalBMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016


  • Assessing physiological demands of physical activity
  • Assessing validity and reliability of test of physiological parameters
  • Health promotion
  • Physical activity
  • Validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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