Does it seem like everything causes cancer nowadays? Each day it seems as though some food, hygiene product, technology, or activity now has more risks than what meets the eye. So here’s the important question on everyone’s mind: Are activity trackers safe to wear?
The short answer is, there really is no hard evidence that fitness trackers are bad for your health or cause cancer. As technology develops rapidly, it is difficult to say what things affect your health and what things are perfectly safe. Fitness trackers as of right now appear to be safe to use regularly, though it is too early to know and there has not been enough research done. Here are some things to consider when you are debating how often you should wear your trackers.
Why It Could Be Dangerous
There has been some speculation that fitness trackers could be dangerous to your health because, like cell phones, they emit a very minimal amount of radiation. According to the Federal Communication Commision, cell phones, by law in the US, must emit less than 1.6 watts per kilogram of radiation.
Comparatively, a typical FitBit emits 6 watts per kilogram of radiation. While this is a very small amount when you juxtapose it with the cell phone limit, it is still radiation, which might not make you feel very comfortable.
Though cell phones and fitness trackers do emit radiation, according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), “cell phones and cordless phones use radiofrequency radiation (RF) to send signals. RF is different from other types of radiation (like x-rays) that we know can be harmful. We don’t know for sure if RF radiation from cell phones can cause health problems years later.”
What is known is that the radiation levels are low and that they are not a type of radiation that is known to be detrimental to your health.
Radiation is put off by many things that we come into contact with on a daily basis and it is impossible to know how much radiation we get unless we constantly have a Geiger counter on hand. While it is always good to limit your exposure to radiation, it is impossible to completely eradicate it out of your life.
Why You Shouldn’t Worry Too Much
Of course, you always want to be as healthy as possible, and being aware of the risks before you consume anything or put anything on your body is responsible, but there is some evidence that fitness trackers are not something to lose sleep over.
According to John Sweetenham, MD of the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, “There’s very little evidence at the moment to suggest that there’s a link between cellphone usage and any type of cancer. The numbers of brain cancers we’re seeing have been pretty flat for many years. With widespread cell phone usage, if there was a link, you might expect to see some increase in the number of cases. But there isn’t.”
Cell phones produce much more radiation than fitness trackers do, and are held against the head and near vital organs more than fitness trackers, so you would assume that if there is no increase in brain cancer since the cell phone explosion, then there wouldn’t be an increase in cancer due to fitness trackers as well.
Why The Benefits Outweigh The Costs
Having a fitness tracker is the first step to living a healthy lifestyle. If you are more aware of your activity level and feel motivated to do better every day then you are naturally going to make improvements on your health.
Exercising each day, even if it’s only counting your steps or standing and stretching at your desk each time your fitness tracker nudges you to move throughout the day can vastly decrease your susceptibility to many health concerns caused by obesity and heart disease. In fact, heart disease has been the leading cause of death for as long as there are statistics. Cancer comes in a close second with 40% of those deaths caused by tobacco use (not radiation), according to the CDC.
So if people are changing their health habits with motivation from their fitness tracker, it most certainly will be more beneficial to them than the minimal amount of non-ionizing radiation will be detrimental. Of course, there are still things that you can do to limit your exposure if you are still nervous about the radiation.
What You Can Do To Limit Exposure
You can never be completely free of radiation since radon can be found everywhere around us. It is in ultra violet rays from the sun and it can commonly seep into cracks in your basement. The CDC states, “More research is needed before we know if using cell phones causes health effects.” So, though at this point there is no definite answer whether cell phones and fitness trackers cause health problems, you can still reduce your exposure by following some of the tips outlined below.
There are a lot of people who really enjoy having the sleep tracker feature as a part of their fitness tracker, but is it something you really need? If you have sleep problems and you want to track how things are going, that’s one thing, but if you are just tracking your sleep for curiosity sake, then this might be a feature you can do without to avoid more radiation exposure.
Taking your fitness tracker off for at least 8 hours a night can help you reduce the exposure without missing anything important that you want tracked throughout the day. It’s also an ideal time to charge it.
Though the radiation that is emitted from fitness trackers is minimal, you may feel more comfortable wearing it in locations away from your internal organs. This means that the armbands, anklets, wristbands, and rings are all great options to reduce exposure to radiation. The belt clips or chest straps may not be a great option if you are concerned about radiation near your organs.
Other Device Usage
As mentioned before, radiation is emitted from lots of different things and anything with a bluetooth has measured levels of radiation. If you have a tablet, or a cellphone, then you may want to reduce exposure through these devices as well. Always setting your tablet on a table instead of on your lap is one way to be more aware. Using the speakerphone on your cellphone when possible will also reduce the amount of radiation near your head.
Length of Time
One of the really great benefits of having a fitness tracker is that you can track your health throughout the day, even when you’re not working out. You will be able to know how active you are when you are running around doing errands or you can be motivated to work harder if you sit at a desk for most of the day.
Day to day tracking can only be very accurate if you wear it consistently and can compare your results to the other days of the week. However, if you are concerned about exposure, then limit use of your fitness tracker for during your times of exercise.
Communication With Phone
The amount of radiation is really determined by the amount that the bluetooth connection is used in your fitness tracker to communicate to your cellphone or laptop. If you have an option to reduce this or buy a tracker that has no bluetooth, then you may want to look closer into those options. Many people see Bluetooth connection as a plus, but as far as radiation goes, this is the primary source of the surges.
Overall, here are the points to remember from this article:
- There is no indication that fitness trackers are detrimental to your health.
- Fitness trackers use a different kind of radiation than the radiation that is known to cause cancer.
- Fitness trackers emit a very low amount of radiation in comparison with other devices that most people use on a daily basis.
- If you are still concerned about exposure to radiation, there are a lot of options to reduce the minimal amount of radiation emitted by your fitness tracker.
It is always wise to be responsible and aware of anything you could be doing to expose yourself to dangerous radiation. Just remember to consider the sources that you look at when you are researching information about fitness trackers and radiation. There are a lot of sources that use scare tactics, but the ones you can trust are the sources put out by actual scientists.