Comparative evaluation of wearable devices for measuring elevation gain in mountain physical activities

Raimundo Sánchez, Marcelo Villena

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The aim of this article is to examine the validity of elevation gain measures in mountain activities, such as hiking and mountain running, using different wearable devices and post-processing procedures. In particular, a total of 202 efforts were recorded and evaluated using three standard devices: GPS watch, GPS watch with barometric altimeter, and smartphone. A benchmark was based on orthorectified aerial photogrammetric survey conducted by the Chilean Air Force. All devices presented considerable elevation gain measuring errors, where the barometric device consistently overestimated elevation gain, while the GPS devices consistently underestimated elevation gain. The incorporation of secondary information in the post-processing can substantially improve the elevation gain measuring accuracy independently of the device and altitude measuring technology, reducing the error from −5% to −1%. These results could help coaches and athletes correct elevation gain estimations using the proposed technique, which would serve as better estimates of physical workload in mountain physical activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-319
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part P: Journal of Sports Engineering and Technology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • GPS
  • Mountain running
  • altitude
  • barometric device
  • measuring
  • physical workload
  • validity


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