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Amazing Wearable Tech: Using a Fitness Tracker to Monitor Health

Having a fitness tracker has become very popular. These wearables offer a range of features to help individuals track and improve their health and fitness. There are fitness bands meant mainly for health tracking, powerful smartwatches that have fitness tracker features, hybrid watches that look like regular analog watches but have fitness tracking built-in, and dedicated-purpose devices like continuous glucose monitors. All of these offer a plethora of measurements and insights, including steps taken, distance traveled, heart rate monitoring, sleep quality analysis, calorie expenditure tracking, and even stress levels. In this article, we’ll explore the common types of fitness wearables and how they can help you on your health and fitness journey

Monitoring Steps Taken and Distance Traveled

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One of the fundamental features of fitness wearables is the ability to track your daily steps and distance traveled. By doing so, they provide valuable insights into your physical activity level. It’s a simple yet effective metric that can motivate you to be more active.

Knowing how many steps you’ve taken encourages you to set goals, such as achieving 10,000 steps a day, and allows you to measure your progress. Whether you’re aiming to increase your overall activity level or train for a specific event like a 5k race, having this data readily available on your wrist can be incredibly convenient.

Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or simply looking to lead a more active life, the step and distance tracking features of fitness wearables are valuable tools on your journey to better health. 

Nearly all fitness wearables – Fitbits, Android smartwatches, Apple watches, etc. – have this feature.

Monitoring Heart Rate

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Most fitness wearables also provide insights into your cardiovascular health. Many of these devices come equipped with optical heart rate sensors that continuously monitor your heart rate throughout the day and during workouts.

The ability to monitor heart rate offers several benefits:

Workout Optimization: During exercise, tracking your heart rate allows you to gauge the intensity of your workout. This information is valuable for optimizing your training.

Resting Heart Rate is a key indicator of cardiovascular health. A lower resting heart rate is often associated with better fitness and overall well-being. Tracking changes in your resting heart rate over time can alert you to potential health improvements or concerns.

Stress Management: Some fitness wearables use heart rate data to assess your stress levels. They can provide insights into moments of heightened stress throughout the day. Recognizing these patterns allows you to implement stress-reduction techniques to improve your overall mental and physical health.

Heart Health: Regular monitoring of your heart rate can contribute to early detection of irregularities or abnormalities in your heart rhythm. While fitness wearables aren’t a replacement for medical devices, they can provide valuable data that you can share with healthcare professionals during check-ups.

Incorporating heart rate monitoring into your fitness routine and daily life can help you make more informed decisions about your health. It’s a powerful tool that empowers you to take charge of your cardiovascular well-being and optimize your fitness journey.

As with step monitoring, heart rate measurement is a very command wearable feature nowadays.

Monitoring Sleep

A good night’s sleep is essential for overall health and well-being, and fitness wearables have made tracking and improving sleep quality more accessible than ever. A fitness tracker with sleep monitoring utilizes a combination of sensors, including accelerometers and heart rate monitors, to provide insights into your sleep patterns. Here’s how monitoring sleep with fitness wearables can benefit you:

Sleep Duration: Fitness wearables can track the duration of your sleep, helping you determine if you’re getting enough restorative rest. The recommended amount of sleep varies by age, but most adults need 7-9 hours per night for optimal health.

Sleep Stages: Many wearables can differentiate between various sleep stages, including deep sleep, light sleep, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Understanding your sleep cycles allows you to assess the quality of your sleep. For example, spending more time in deep sleep is associated with better physical recovery.

Sleep Disruption: These devices can detect instances of sleep disruption, such as waking up during the night or experiencing restless periods. By identifying factors that disturb your sleep, you can take steps to address them, whether it’s adjusting your sleeping environment or managing stress.

Sleep Trends: Over time, fitness wearables compile data on your sleep patterns, creating trends that offer insights into your sleep quality. You can track improvements or identify patterns of poor sleep to make necessary adjustments.

Sleep Recommendations: Many wearables provide personalized sleep recommendations based on your sleep data. These insights may suggest changes to your bedtime routine, sleep environment, or lifestyle to enhance sleep quality.

Sleep and Overall Health: Adequate sleep is closely linked to overall health. Poor sleep quality is associated with an increased risk of various health conditions, so optimizing your sleep is crucial for long-term health.

One thing to consider when buying a wearable for sleep tracking is the comfort and size of the wearable. If you don’t want to wear let’s say a heavy Apple watch while you sleep every night, consider the light, and slim fitness bands like a Fitbit Inspire.

SpO2 Monitoring

SpO2 is a measurement of the oxygen saturation level in your blood. It represents the percentage of hemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells) carrying oxygen compared to the total hemoglobin present in the blood. In other words, it indicates how effectively your blood is delivering oxygen to your body’s tissues.

Respiratory Health: Low SpO2 levels may be indicative of respiratory issues such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or sleep apnea.

Physical Performance: During exercise or physical activity, SpO2 levels can drop due to increased oxygen demand. Monitoring this metric helps athletes optimize their training and avoid overexertion.

Altitude and Hypoxia: At high altitudes, where the air contains less oxygen, SpO2 levels can decrease, leading to altitude sickness. SpO2 monitoring is crucial for hikers, climbers, and travelers.

Sleep Apnea: Sleep trackers use SpO2 data to identify episodes of oxygen desaturation, which is common in sleep apnea. This information can assist in diagnosing and managing the condition.

Interpreting SpO2 Readings:

Normal SpO2: A healthy person typically has SpO2 levels of 95% or higher.

Low SpO2: Levels below 90% are generally considered low and may warrant medical attention, especially if accompanied by symptoms like shortness of breath or confusion.

Note: While SpO2 monitoring can be valuable, it’s essential to remember that a fitness tracker provides estimates and trends, not medical diagnoses. If you have concerns about your SpO2 levels or notice persistent drops, consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation.

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ECG Monitoring:

ECG, or Electrocardiogram, is a measurement of the electrical activity of your heart. It records the heart’s rhythm and electrical impulses, providing valuable insights into heart health.

ECG monitoring serves several purposes:

Arrhythmia Detection: It can identify irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias), which may be indicative of heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation (AFib). Early detection of AFib is crucial for stroke prevention.

Exercise Performance: Athletes and fitness enthusiasts can use ECG data to optimize their training routines and monitor their heart’s response to exercise.

Heart Health: Regular ECG monitoring can help individuals with a history of heart disease or heart-related issues track their cardiac health over time.

Alerts for Medical Attention: Some wearables can issue alerts if they detect abnormal heart rhythms, prompting users to seek medical evaluation.

Interpreting ECG Readings:

Understanding ECG readings may require medical expertise, as it involves recognizing various wave patterns and anomalies. Some wearables offer basic ECG analysis, while others provide more comprehensive reports.

Blood Pressure Monitoring:

Blood pressure monitoring measures the force of blood against the walls of your arteries. It’s expressed in two numbers: systolic pressure (when the heart beats) and diastolic pressure (when the heart rests between beats).

Monitoring blood pressure is vital for several reasons:

Hypertension Detection: High blood pressure (hypertension) is a significant risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other health issues. Regular monitoring can help identify and manage hypertension.

Medication Management: Individuals on blood pressure medications can use wearables to track the effectiveness of their treatment.

Stress Management: Elevated stress levels can temporarily raise blood pressure. Monitoring can help users identify patterns and manage stress.

Interpreting Blood Pressure Readings:

Blood pressure readings consist of two numbers, like “120/80 mm Hg.” The first number (systolic pressure) represents the pressure during heartbeats, while the second number (diastolic pressure) represents the pressure when the heart is at rest. “Normal” blood pressure is typically around 120/80 mm Hg, but optimal levels can vary depending on individual health factors.

Note: Blood pressure measurements from wearables are estimates and may not be as accurate as those taken with traditional cuff devices. They can still provide valuable trends and insights but should not replace periodic measurements by healthcare professionals.

ECG and Blood Pressure Monitoring isn’t a common feature in wearables today, and is available in certain high-end devices from Apple, Samsung, Garmin, and Polar, among others.

Blood Glucose Monitoring

I am not aware of any fitness tracker or smartwatch that measures blood glucose, but there are specialized devices called Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs) that continuously track glucose levels throughout the day and night. I’m making special mention of this dedicated device due to the huge importance of tracking glucose which is one of the best indicators of good health. Abnormally high blood glucose is a symptom of diabetes and moreover it is highly correlated with other chronic diseases such as hypertension, kidney disease, and fatty liver disease.

CGMs consist of a small sensor inserted under the skin, typically on the abdomen or upper arm, and a transmitter that sends real-time data to a receiver or a smartphone app. The sensor measures glucose levels in the interstitial fluid (fluid between cells) and sends this information to the receiver or app. Users can see their glucose trends, set alarms for high or low levels, and make informed decisions about insulin dosing and dietary choices.

CGMs provide valuable insights into blood glucose patterns, helping individuals with diabetes manage their condition more effectively. They can also be useful for athletes and fitness enthusiasts to optimize their nutrition and performance.

Some well-known CGM brands include Dexcom, FreeStyle Libre, and Medtronic.

While blood glucose monitoring wearables are advancing, their accuracy may vary, and they may not be suitable for medical decision-making. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional, especially for diabetes management.

Choosing a Fitness Tracker That is Right for You

To help you decide on which type of fitness tracker to purchase, here’s a summary of the functions and features fitness bands, smart watches, and hybrid watches.

Fitness Bands:

Focus: Fitness bands are primarily designed for health and fitness tracking.

Key Features: They excel in monitoring steps, distance, sleep, heart rate, and sometimes SPO2.

Battery Life: Typically offer longer battery life compared to smartwatches.

Design: Often slim, lightweight, and comfortable for 24/7 wear.

Notifications: Limited smartphone notifications, if any.

Apps: Tend to have fewer app integrations compared to smartwatches.

Price: Generally more affordable than smartwatches.


Focus: Smartwatches offer a wide range of features beyond being a fitness tracker, including smartphone integration and apps.

Key Features: Besides fitness tracking, they provide notifications, music control, GPS, and access to app stores.

Battery Life: Shorter battery life compared to fitness bands, often requiring daily charging.

Design: Come in various styles, including sporty, classic, and luxury.

Notifications: Can display texts, calls, emails, and app alerts.

Apps: Support a wide range of third-party apps, enhancing versatility.

Price: Typically more expensive than fitness bands.

Hybrid Watches:

Focus: Hybrid watches combine traditional analog watch design with smart features.

Key Features: They provide metrics as a fitness tracker, provide basic notifications, and maintain a classic watch appearance.

Battery Life: Longer battery life compared to smartwatches. Some have longer battery life than fitness bands.

Design: Exactly like analog smartwatches.

Notifications: Limited to essential notifications, often through subtle vibrations or hands movements.

Apps: Limited app support compared to smartwatches.

Price: Usually more affordable than high-end smartwatches.

In Summary

Fitness Bands are ideal for individuals primarily interested in health and fitness tracking without the distractions of a smartwatch.

Smartwatches are suited for those who want a versatile device that combines fitness tracking with extensive smartphone integration and app support.

Hybrid Watches are best for individuals who value a classic watch appearance but still want some smart features and fitness tracking.

In the end, deciding on a fitness tracker purchase is based on your fitness goals and lifestyle. What’s increasingly apparent is how common chronic diseases are today compared to a couple decades ago, and the ability to monitor health with a fitness tracker is becoming an indispensable tool for the health conscious.

Disclaimer: Please note that the content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian before making significant changes to your diet, exercise routine, or health practices.

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