Accuracy of elevation recording using sport watches while walking and running on hilly and flat terrain

Ammann, Rahel ; Taube, Wolfgang ; Kummer, Fabian ; Wyss, Thomas

In: Sports Engineering, 2016, vol. 19, no. 4, p. 283–287

Elevation gain (EG) is a significant contributor to the total workload in many endurance sports. Hence, the aim of this study was to evaluate the accuracy of elevation recording as assessed by popular sport watches. Eighteen participants walked and ran at different speeds in various weather conditions in two terrain types: on a hilly 2490 m course with a total EG of 90 m and on a flat 1200 m... More

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    Summary
    Elevation gain (EG) is a significant contributor to the total workload in many endurance sports. Hence, the aim of this study was to evaluate the accuracy of elevation recording as assessed by popular sport watches. Eighteen participants walked and ran at different speeds in various weather conditions in two terrain types: on a hilly 2490 m course with a total EG of 90 m and on a flat 1200 m outdoor track with 0 m EG. In total, 180 recordings from each sport watch were analyzed and compared according to two processing types: filtered and unfiltered EG data. Compared to the reference values, regarding default settings, on hilly terrain, EG was underestimated by −3.3 to −9.8 %, and on flat terrain, EG was overestimated by 0.0– 4.8 m per 1200 m. These errors could be reduced to −3.3 to +0.4 %, when filtering conditions were adjusted according to the terrain. Gait speed (ranging from 1.47 to 4.89 m s−1) or fluctuations in weather conditions between- or within-trials did not influence EG accuracy. A straightforward comparison between manufacturers is hampered as the filter conditions set by default differ. In conclusion, all devices measure EG adequately; however, the displayed default feedback on EG data is not always the most accurate measurement. Consequently, accuracy in elevation recordings could be increased if users appropriately post-process EG data.