Heart rate measures from the Apple Watch, Fitbit Charge HR 2, and electrocardiogram across different exercise intensities

J Sports Sci. 2019 Jun;37(12):1411-1419. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2018.1560644. Epub 2019 Jan 18.


This study compared heart rate (HR) measurements for the Fitbit Charge HR 2 (Fitbit) and the Apple Watch devices with HR measurements for electrocardiogram (ECG). Thirty young adults (15/15 females/males, age 23.5 ± 3.0 years) completed the Bruce Protocol. HR measurements were recorded from the ECG and both devices every minute. Average HR for each participant was calculated for very light, light, moderate, vigorous and very vigorous intensities based on ECG-measured HR. A concordance correlation coefficient (CCC) was calculated to examine the strength of the relationship between ECG measured HR and HR measured by each device. Relative error rates (RER) were also calculated to indicate the difference between each device and ECG. An equivalence test was conducted to examine the equivalence of HRs measured by devices and ECG. The Apple Watch showed lower RER (2.4-5.1%) compared with the Fitbit (3.9-13.5%) for all exercise intensities. For both devices, the strongest relationship with ECG-measured HR was found for very light PA with very high CCC (>.90) and equivalence. The strength of the relationship declined as exercise intensity increased for both devices. These findings indicate that the accuracy of real-time HR monitoring by the Apple Watch and Fitbit Charge HR2 is reduced as exercise intensity increases.

Keywords: Apple Watch; Fitbit Charge HR 2; Heart rate measurement; exercise intensity; wearable devices.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electrocardiography*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Fitness Trackers / standards*
  • Heart Rate*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / instrumentation*
  • Young Adult