Accuracy of heart rate watches: implications for weight management

Wallen, Matthew P., Gomersall, Sjaan R., Keating, Shelley E., Wisløff, Ulrik and Coombes, Jeff S. (2016) Accuracy of heart rate watches: implications for weight management. PLoS Biology, 11 5: . doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0154420

Author Wallen, Matthew P.
Gomersall, Sjaan R.
Keating, Shelley E.
Wisløff, Ulrik
Coombes, Jeff S.
Title Accuracy of heart rate watches: implications for weight management
Journal name PLoS Biology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1544-9173
Publication date 2016-05-27
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0154420
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 11
Issue 5
Total pages 11
Place of publication San Francisco, United States
Publisher Public Library of Science
Collection year 2017
Language eng
Formatted abstract

Wrist-worn monitors claim to provide accurate measures of heart rate and energy expenditure. People wishing to lose weight use these devices to monitor energy balance, however the accuracy of these devices to measure such parameters has not been established.


To determine the accuracy of four wrist-worn devices (Apple Watch, Fitbit Charge HR, Samsung Gear S and Mio Alpha) to measure heart rate and energy expenditure at rest and during exercise.


Twenty-two healthy volunteers (50% female; aged 24 ± 5.6 years) completed ~1-hr protocols involving supine and seated rest, walking and running on a treadmill and cycling on an ergometer. Data from the devices collected during the protocol were compared with reference methods: electrocardiography (heart rate) and indirect calorimetry (energy expenditure).


None of the devices performed significantly better overall, however heart rate was consistently more accurate than energy expenditure across all four devices. Correlations between the devices and reference methods were moderate to strong for heart rate (0.67–0.95 [0.35 to 0.98]) and weak to strong for energy expenditure (0.16–0.86 [-0.25 to 0.95]). All devices underestimated both outcomes compared to reference methods. The percentage error for heart rate was small across the devices (range: 1–9%) but greater for energy expenditure (9–43%). Similarly, limits of agreement were considerably narrower for heart rate (ranging from -27.3 to 13.1 bpm) than energy expenditure (ranging from -266.7 to 65.7 kcals) across devices.


These devices accurately measure heart rate. However, estimates of energy expenditure are poor and would have implications for people using these devices for weight loss.
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Article number e0154420

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: HERDC Pre-Audit
School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences Publications
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Created: Thu, 23 Jun 2016, 11:52:58 EST by Sandrine Ducrot on behalf of School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences