Fitness trackers are often a pious purchase for those of us looking to get healthier and track our progress along the way. But can they offer a deeper insight into our health?
Recently it was reported that a man in the US arrived at an emergency ward following a seizure. The medical team treating him noticed that he was wearing a Fitbit Charge HR fitness tracker. They accessed the important heart rate data collected by this tracker before, during and immediately after his seizure. This information was used to influence the course of treatment for this Fitbit user.
While it’s unusual for an activity tracker to be used an emergency situation, it certainly isn’t the only surprising insight offered by a fitness tracker.
Another user turned to an online forum after noticing his wife’s consistently elevated heart rate. To his surprise, he learnt that a higher heart rate could be an indicator of pregnancy. The couple are due to welcome their first child in October 2016.
But are these (extreme) examples just one-offs, or are fitness trackers the key to quicker and easier diagnoses, treatment and monitoring of health issues?
Tracking your health
Interest in fitness trackers has boomed over the last few years. And it’s no wonder. We can find out pretty much anything at the click of a button these days.
As discussed recently on Which? Convo, if you’ve ever sought medical advice online (I’m definitely guilty of this), then you know there’s a danger attached to having complex health data at our own fingertips. The majority of us aren’t trained to properly analyse it, and could easily misconstrue what it’s telling us.
But fitness trackers can offer far more. We’ve tested models that can track a host of measures – your activity levels, calories burnt, heart rate, even the quality of your sleep.
All are good indicators of your general wellbeing, and could give your GP valuable information about your health that they simply can’t get from a short appointment. Also, being able to spot the difference between what’s normal and healthy for your body and what isn’t, could even stop you rushing down to your GP or A&E.
Other unexpected consequences
If you have private health insurance then you may be receiving rewards for your healthy lifestyle. But I suspect that the next generation of fitness trackers could take it one step further, helping you to reap monetary benefits, as well as health ones.
In fact, Russia’s Alfa-Bank announced in 2014 that it would offer higher interest rates for healthy customers with fitness trackers.
So could fitness trackers be used to monitor more than just your activity? Would you share data from your fitness tracker with your GP?