- Maintaining the proper balance of calories consumed and calories burned is the best way to lose weight or maintain your current weight; exercise accounts for much less weight loss than calorie monitoring.
- A Fitbit can help you approximate how many calories you burn during any given exercise and can create a snapshot of your overall daily and weekly expenditure.
- Like many similar fitness trackers, Fitbits have a notable margin of error when it comes to tracking calories burned, so they should be used with caution when calculating your optimal diet and exercise routines.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The Fitbit health and fitness tracker is highly accurate when it comes to logging your daily step count. But according to a series of studies from 2017, the Fitbit Surge in particular has a margin of error of around 27% when it comes to counting calories burned during exercise and throughout your day.
That said, most other fitness trackers in those tests scored poorly as well, and no device – including the Apple Watch, Samsung Gear S2, and the Microsoft Band – did better than a 25% error rate when it came to counting calories burned.
As aligning calories consumed with calories expended is so critical for proper weight management and fitness, you should plan to use a Fitbit or other such device more as a reference point for calories burned, not as an accurate meter – a sports medicine doctor can help you determine actual calorie burn more accurately, if you feel the need.
Ballpark accuracy aside, using a Fitbit to track your approximate calorie burn can still help you lose weight and maintain fitness, giving you a general sense of how your routines are working out.
How a Fitbit calculates calories burned
But how does a Fitbit calculate the calories you’ve burned? The answer is the use of both specific information about you, and more general calculations pre-loaded into its algorithm, including calculations about how human beings burn calories writ large.
First, you input a number of metrics about yourself into the Fitbit app. These include your age, weight, height, and gender, data points that are used to establish a basal metabolic rate. This, your BMR, is the rate at which you burn calories while at rest (thanks to digestion, your heartbeat, breathing, etc.).
This base rate usually accounts for half the calories reported burned during the day; the rest come from an increased burn the Fitbit assumes you are enjoying when it senses an elevated heart rate and/or motion. But that heart rate could be stress, and the motion could be from a bumpy ride in a vehicle or a nervous tick, so always take Fitbit calorie counts with a grain or three of salt.
To get a full health statistic report, including your approximate calorie burn, you can go to the dashboard on your Fitbit app (pictured below).
Related coverage from How To Do Everything: Tech:
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.