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Your fitness tracker is lying to you about the distance you’ve run, study claims

The crowd of marathon runners who crossed the finish line during the 2018 London Marathon in central London on April 22, 2018. (Photo by Alex Cavendish/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Fitness trackers are underestimating running distance by up to 40%, analysis from the consumer bible Which? has revealed.

It has ‘uncovered the most inaccurate fitness trackers from big brands including Apple, Fitbit and Garmin’.

The least reliable tracker was alleged to be the Garmin Vivostart, which reportedly underestimated the distance of a full marathon by 10.8 miles.

Tests also found that when the Vivosmart 4 tells an athlete they’ve run 26.2 miles, the plucky pavement pounder has actually gone almost 11 miles further – meaning people who run a marathon distance would be actually be running around 37 miles.

A runner using the Huawei Watch 2 Sport could find themselves around seven miles short of the finish line of the marathon, with Which? claiming this model overestimated the distance by 28%.

Relying on the Watch 2 Sport would leave a marathon runner finishing in around 19 miles, which is the largest underestimation of all the models.

Apple fared relatively well in the Which? tests, with the smallest difference between its most and least accurate models’.

Of the eight Apple models tested, the most inaccurate was the Apple Watch Series 3 GPS, which overestimated distance covered by 13%, or around 3 miles under the finish line of a marathon.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 22: A runner dressed as a tree takes part in the 2018 London Marathon on its way through Greenwich in London, United Kingdom on April 22, 2018. (Photo by Isabel Infantes/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The best Apple model – the Apple Watch Series 1 – only overestimated distance while running by 1%

Natalie Hitchins, Which? Head of Home Products and Services, said: ‘Running a marathon is no mean feat, so runners who are putting in the months of training beforehand will want to know their fitness tracker is trustworthy, and not jeopardising their finish times.

‘Our tests have found a number of models from big-name brands that can’t be trusted when it comes to measuring distance, so before you buy, make sure you do your research to find a model that you can rely on.’

A spokesperson from Garmin said: ‘The Vivosmart 4 is an all-round smart fitness activity tracker used to monitor wellness, health and fitness for a range of activities. As the Vivosmart 4 does not incorporate GPS, our recommendation for someone who is running long distances such as a marathon, would be to choose a tracking device such as our Forerunner range which is dedicated to running and incorporates GPS.’

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