Rochester, Minnesota - An advanced generation of activity-tracking technology offers a much more accurate picture of daily movement and energy expenditures, according to the August issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter. Many people overestimate their activity level. When they see their actual activity level, they often learn to increase activity habits.

Basic pedometers, the old technology, roughly estimate the number of footsteps taken in a period of time. The new gadgets, such as the Fitbit, Jawbone, Basis or Motoactv and the NEAT-certified trackers, take advantage of computer and electronics advances. They include accelerometers that detect movement and may have sensors that detect standing or sitting or elevation gain or loss. Data is crunched in microchips that can calculate and quantify movement. Devices can distinguish between types of movement based on acceleration and force. Although accuracy varies from product to product, most can distinguish between walking, jogging or taking stairs and, in some cases, bicycling.

Various other measures may include heart rate, body perspiration and body temperature. Some devices include a vibration that activates after a period of no activity. Often, the devices list progress toward a goal that might be 150 minutes a week of moderately intense activity, 10,000 steps a day or at least 10 minutes of activity every hour.

Devices typically have wireless download capability to smartphones, tablets or computers. The data is then displayed in graphs, charts and even comparisons to others who use the same device.

A basic pedometer costs $10 to $50. Newer devices sell for $60 to $200.

Over the long term, most people either quit using these tools or use them only sporadically. Still, it’s suspected ― though not proved ― that the initial education and guidance from the shorter-term use may be enough to kick-start healthy habits.