Do fitness trackers really improve health

Do fitness trackers really improve health

You need a fitness tracker if you really want to improve your health. When I first started wearing fitness tracker a couple of months ago, it was frustrating to try.

But when I started wearing it I came to know about its health benefits. I got to see all my statistics right on my wrist. Charting my over time it was like something from a superhero movie,

I was like wow this thing can really help in improving health.

I recommend fitness tracker because it can boost your daily workouts and make it part of your daily routine to achieve targets. It is important to mention that an easy to use tracker is actually motivating towards achieving your health and fitness goals.

Most fitness trackers have more functions than a Swiss Army knife. Usually including a heart rate monitor, distance trackers, exercise programs, calorie trackers and many more, all with the intention of improving your health. If you feel a significant improvement in health, you will never stop using it.

Buy or dust off your tracker

Have you been thinking about buying a fitness tracker, or do you have one, and its collecting dust?

Well now is the time to either buy that tracker or dust it off. Because here you will get answers to the questions which are clicking in your mind. Like, do fitness trackers really improve health? Do fitness trackers motivate you? Fitness trackers have the potential to be one of the best tools which can improve your health and also motivate you.

To find out detailed answers to the aforementioned questions, first, you need to know precisely about fitness trackers.

Do fitness trackers work and really improve health?

Before we get into it, do fitness trackers work and really improve health? To put it into simpler terms, fitness trackers measure movement and motion.  They use sensors that can track the following things:

  • Movement
  • Orientation
  • Rotation

They collect data and immediately convert it into steps, calories, sleep quality and general activity that you do all over the day. There is also a sensor called the ‘altimeter’ that can measure your altitude. It must be noteworthy that, the more sensors your fitness tracker has, the more accurate it can be for you.

Now moving towards the question; do fitness trackers work and really improve health?

Yes, if used.

My guess is that most people take it for granted that fitness trackers are helpful in improving your health, but that’s based mostly on hypothesis.

So, what did they find?

Fitness trackers on their own won’t improve your health; that’s true. But what trackers can do is motivate you, hold you accountable, and measure metrics that you normally wouldn’t think to look at when it comes to your overall fitness. If you’re thinking of slapping a fitness tracker on your arm but need a little more convincing, then read ahead.

The fundamental hypothesis driving the smartwatch industry is that losing weight is a simple matter of “calories in versus calories out”. This view is held by many fitness experts, bodybuilders, and nutritionists. But not all.

Alternative crowd maintains that counting calories are actually unproductive for a large number of the population. According to this viewpoint, the answer has more to do with metabolism, insulin sensitivity, hormone balance, gut bacteria, nutrient density and so on. This group of people might answer the question of whether fitness trackers really work quite differently or not.

Allow me to be so bold as to present my point of view.

Burning more calories than you consume will affect weight loss.

Smartwatches and the calorie counting people rely on a number called an Active Metabolic Rate to do their math. This is the number of calories that you burn during a normal day of work. In turn, this is calculated as your Basal Metabolic Rate the number of calories simply required for breathing and thinking plus any activity on top.

To get your BMR and therefore your AMR you have to enter these required inputs:

  • Your height
  • Your weight
  • Sex

This is needed because taller people require more energy just to go about their usual business that’s why bigger folks tend to eat more. Similarly, men and women burn different amounts of calories. You can also do a BMR calculation using your lean body mass.

Two people roughly the same height and weight won’t burn the same number of calories. If you have a higher level of testosterone then you will burn more calories and build more muscle. Hormone balance plays a big role. Similarly, thyroid hormones, cortisol levels, insulin, and some other factors all play a role.

You don’t believe that hormones can make much difference to your physique? Look at somebody who uses steroids. They would have the same numbers as anyone else on a fitness tracker, but they’d look a lot different. On the other hand, many women who start using oral contraceptives can also gain or lose weight as a result.

Our guts harbor a lot of friendly bacteria that play a very vital role in our health and well-being. These bacteria help us to produce hormones and neurotransmitters; they aid with our digestion, and they fend off bad bacteria. Several case studies have shown us that fecal transplants can result in rapid weight loss or weight gain due to the loss or addition of the bacteria.

Millions of people use fitness trackers to monitor their health and fitness. If it were possible to count calories going in and out, this would lead to more precise predictions of weight gain or weight loss.

Not just for exercise junkies, the data from fitness trackers may help predict and even prevent heart disease, blood pressure, and count calories. Sensors on these devices track each and everything from body movements to heart rate and even blood pressure. They also include loud alarms to remind users to stay active throughout the day.

Despite mistakes when it comes to recording your activity, wearable trackers can be useful for improving your daily workout. Because the majority of adult’s exercise comes in the form of walking, your step count should provide a good approximate of your daily activity.

For many fitness-band wearers, the accurate number of steps jogged matters a lot. The bands can increase competition to outwalk friends and encourage them to take an evening walk. Those who wore fitness trackers significantly increased the time they spent doing moderate to energetic activity. These facts remove the doubt about do fitness trackers work and really improve health.

Do fitness trackers motivate you?

A fitness tracker can help by providing valuable data and collecting your health and fitness information that allows you to see what you’re achieving. It also records any improvement. These can all work together to keep you motivated.

People are more motivated to push themselves when they can visibly see their activity levels. It also helps them reach to their next fitness level. Seeing their progress can give them a feeling of achievement, which in turn increases motivation.

Being sufficiently motivated plays an essential role in whether people are able to increase and maintain their physical activity levels. But it must be kept in mind that not all forms of motivation are equally powerful.

There are three forms of motivations:

  • Autonomous Motivation
  • Controlled Motivation
  • Amotivation

1. Autonomous Motivation

When a person does something freely, willingly and with a positive attitude, it usually indicates higher motivational quality which is known as autonomous motivation.

2. Controlled Motivation

If a person does an activity mainly in response to other’s demands or pressures such as rewards, competition or comparison with others, this is indicative of lower motivational quality which is known as controlled motivation.

3. Amotivation

When a person has no desire to take part in an activity at all, then this state is known as amotivation.

Greater motivation depends on three basic “needs”:

  • Autonomy
  • Competence
  • Relatedness

Autonomy: It is the need to feel a sense of ownership over your actions.

Competence: It is the need to feel adequately-challenged and experience a sense of accomplishment.

Relatedness: It is the need to feel connected to others and supported in your endeavors.

Both autonomous (higher) and controlling (lower) forms of motivation can prompt changes in our behavior, but autonomous motivation is more durable and beneficial in the longer term, particularly for physical activity and weight loss.

Goal-setting and self-monitoring of progress can maintain the development of high-quality (autonomous) motivation for physical activity. Fitness trackers are really helpful motivational tools to support people in making long-term lifestyle changes and becoming more active, both during and after taking part in a weight loss and healthy living plan.

Overall, fitness trackers can motivate increased performance and raise the effectiveness of the workout.

Benefits of Fitness Trackers

There are a number of benefits for people who want to increase access to health and activity trackers in the workplace. As a result, fitness trackers can really improve their health too. The top 12 benefits are:

1. An environment focused on health

For many years, work environments have made productivity and profit the top priorities, while health received little to no attention. The good news is that the arrival of fitness trackers, along with other wellness devices tied to specific outcomes, have moved health to the front position of the workplace environment. This, in turn, creates a stronger sense of companionship, happiness and overall employee retention.

2. Enhanced chronic disease management

Diabetes and high blood pressure are chronic diseases that require constant monitoring and management. Fitness trackers allow people to monitor their physical activity, what they are eating on a daily basis and many more. This can lead to improved health and, eventually, increased productivity due to a decreased rate of workplace absences related to illnesses and other disorders.

Wear your fitness tracker to bed, and perhaps your nights will be more restful and you’ll feel better in the morning. This can lead to improved health and, eventually, a decreased rate of workplace absences due to sleepless nights.

3. Up-to-date weight loss tool

As you’re busy trying to maintain your personal records, you may not even notice the gains or losses you’re making in your weight. Fitness trackers can make calorie counting more convenient than ever. They can also help you manage your food intake.

Many fitness tracker apps have nutritional information databases. So if you want to count your calories, no longer do you need to carry calorie book with you at the workplace. You set a daily calorie goal, you can see at a glance how many calories you have left in your budget and how many calories you’ve burned.

4. Get better at sports

Even if you’re fit then you can still benefit from using a fitness tracker. With the help of fitness trackers, you’re able to track metrics (such as speed, number of laps, and revolutions per minute) related to specific sports such as running and cycling etc. It helps you to see how well you’re performing and track your progress.

5. Counting steps is easy

It may sound unreasonable, wearing a fitness tracker for counting your steps. But it really motivates you to simply strive yourself to improve your daily steps goal. You can also see how many steps you walked per day and it motivates you to do better the next day. So it reduces your laziness and encourages you to go across the world.

6. Accountability

This is a great feature for those who need a little push out of the door to get moving in the morning. Most fitness trackers work with third-party apps where you can challenge a friend to a workout and post your planned sessions to keep yourself accountable to your exercise program. Social exercise aids in helping us perform more regular exercise and avoid pulling the cover over our heads to sleep in. Additionally, when you do get in that activity, you can share it on social media with your active friends.

7. Motivate healthy habits

The intensifying use of smartphone apps with built-in motivations has turned health monitoring into a game. In fact, both small and large companies have taken over games and expanded it further by putting programs in place that motivate healthy employee habits.

8. Pushes you to achieve your goals

Goal setting is the significant feature of fitness trackers and it lets you set the goal and keeps you engaged in your goal progress. In an increasingly deskbound society, fitness trackers are one way of giving you an extra push to get you out of your seat. They are motivating people to reach their health goals i.e., self-monitoring, setting goals, getting feedback on their progress, revising goals, social support, and developing a sense of self-efficacy.

9. Keep track of your progress

A good fitness tracker will have the option to track your progress, calories, steps, distance and heart rate monitor. Moreover, you could summarize your last week or months’ achievements. As well as, it will shake and inform you when your goals will be achieved, i.e. 6000 steps or 20km. It feels good to see your progress and how much stronger you have become.

10. Personal accountability

Fitness trackers track your goals and your progress, psychologically encouraging you to walk more steps than you did yesterday; to run faster than you did yesterday; to sustain peak heart rate for just a little longer. Wearing a fitness tracker can increase a user’s activity levels. Eventually, a decreased rate of workplace absences due to bad health.

11. Incentives promote activity

Fitness is not an individual hobby or habit. Workplaces are getting involved in encouraging employees to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle with many incentives. Having a healthier member of staff cuts down costs for companies too.

12. Tracks even while you sleep

Sleep is linked to the quality of your health and lifestyle. Fitness trackers can easily determine the quality of your sleep on the basis of your movement during sleep. Most fitness trackers have built-in sleep monitors, which measure how long you sleep and estimate the quality of your rest by how much you move around while you sleep.

Wrapping Up

Finally, it is concluded that fitness trackers continue to play an important role to improve your health and also motivate you. The focus of these devices has been on individuals interested in working towards specific health and fitness goals. I’ve been a user of fitness trackers for years. So, I enjoy tracking my daily activity, exercise and more with my own fitness tracker.

The ability to link your fitness tracker with others, even if they don’t have the same tracker as you, is an innovative way to connect with others. Moreover, you may connect various devices and track your health and fitness data from numerous data sources. This information will be precious for your future safety.

So, if you have a fitness tracker lying nearby, or you have been thinking of getting one, now is the time to make use of it. Gather some close, or not so close friends for motivation, challenge, and fun. Spread the word, “the more the merrier”.

Fitbit Versa 2 vs Fitbit Versa

The Fitbit Versa range fits neatly into the category of fitness smartwatches. By taking some of the features of smartwatches such as notifications and combining them with their fitness tracking guile Fitbit hoped to provide an affordable alternative to devices like the Apple Watch.

The original Fitbit Versa did this with great commercial success. So much so, Fitbit have launched a successor the Fitbit Versa 2.

So between the Versa and Versa 2 which one is best?

Should you upgrade if you own the Fitbit Versa?

Take a look below as we pit them head to head in a showdown to help you decide

Fitbit Versa

  • Battery life: 4 days
  • Display: LCD
  • Dimensions:
    1.6″x1.6″x0.47″
  • Alexa integration: No

Fitbit Versa 2

  • Battery life: 5 days
  • Display: OLED
  • Dimensions:
    1.55″x1.55″x0.45″
  • Alexa integration: Yes

And the showdown winner is

The Fitbit Versa is a very capable fitness tracker and if you are constrained by budget still a great choice.

The Versa 2 takes all that was good in the Versa and adds a little extra – an incremental improvement not a revolution.

Taking into account value for money, faster processor, longer battery life, AMOLED screen, integrated NFC chip for Fitbit Pay the Fitbit Versa 2 is our winning pick.

Key Differences

  • Alexa integration: The Versa 2 allows you to its Alexa integration to perform functions on your watch such as setting the alarm
  • Display: The Versa 2 comes with an AMOLED display which is much brighter than the LCD version on the Vera.
  • Always on display: The Versa 2 has the ability to set the screen so that it is always on – does affect battery life
  • Battery life: The Versa 2 in normal use which is around 1 day more than the Versa
  • Price: Fitbit are pricing the Versa 2 so that in most cases it is the same price as the original Versa

Design

From a distance you would be hard pressed to spot differences between the Fitbit Versa and Fitbit Versa 2. The Fitbit Versa 2 has a slightly larger screen and aesthetically its styling makes more use of curves. Overall, the design of both is still very similar to the Apple Watch.

For physical controls the Fitbit Versa 2 has dispensed with the 2 buttons on the right of the Versa leaving one button on the left hand side which can be linked to a shortcut.

The Fitbit Versa 2 also has the same mechanism for changing straps as the Versa. Definitely no improvements here. It’s still very frustrating to change a strap.

Sizing

HeightWidthDepth
Fitbit Versa 21.56″ / 3.98 cm1.56″ / 3.98 cm0.47″ / 1.19 cm
Fitbit Versa1.55″ / 3.93cm1.55″ / 3.93 cm0.45″ / 1.14 cm

The Versa 2 did away with the Fitbit logo from the Versa resulting in a little bit more screen estate, the device is also ever so slightly deeper. On the wrist it does feel slightly bigger but not to point where you will notice a massive difference.

Fitbit Versa 2 vs Fitbit Versa Showdown

When comparing Versas we use a range of common fitness tracking features. In each category 1 point is assigned to the outright winner and 0 to the loser. In the case of a tie we give 1 point to both devices. The Versa with the most points is the winner of the showdown. The features we use include:-

  • Battery Life
  • Display
  • Fitness Tracking Features
  • GPS Capability
  • Heart Rate Monitoring
  • Music Capability
  • Sleep Tracking
  • Water Resistance

Battery life

The Versa 2 manages to extend the Versa’s already impressive battery life from around 4 days to just over 5 days for normal usage.

For upgraders, it is a bit frustrating that the previous charging dock can’t be used

 ScoreTotal Score
Fitbit Versa00
Fitbit Versa 211

Display

The Fitbit Versa has a 1.34 inch color LCD touch screen with 300 x 300 pixel resolution which towards other devices on the marker can look a bit dated

The Fitbit Versa 2 keeps the 300 x 300 resolution but is now an AMOLED touch screen

When comparing side by side the Versa 2’s screen is much brighter and the colors have a lot more depth with a much better contrast.

Another feature added to the Versa 2 is an Always on Display a great boon and with the latest Fitbit OS there are a number of clock faces that are Always On.

 ScoreTotal
Fitbit Versa00
Fitbit Versa 212

GPS Capability

Fitbit have decided to stick with the same connected GPS capability.

Does that mean I have to take my phone to track my run?

Yes, as neither Versa has an onboard GPS chip the only way to track a GPS run is by connecting your Versa to your phone and taking your phone along with you.

 ScoreTotal Score
Fitbit Versa11
Fitbit Versa 213

Heart Rate Monitoring

This is a tie as both devices come with the same heart rate sensor which operates 24/7 and continuously collects data points to enable Fitbit to calculate a cardio score.

ScoreTotal Score
Fitbit Versa12
Fitbit Versa 214

Music Capability

Both devices have the ability to store music on-board which can be listened to using bluetooth headphones. The Versa 2 comes with a Spotify app pre-installed which is not currently available on the Versa.

It is important to note that it is not possible to do sync your Spotify songs to your Versa 2. The Spotify app is available for Spotify Premium subscribers and acts like a remote control where you can use your watch to control your Spotify connected device.

ScoreTotal Score
Fitbit Versa02
Fitbit Versa 215

Sleep Tracking

Sleep tracking is always been well regarded on Fitbit devices. The Fitbit Versa 2 takes this a bit further by providing a metric known as your Sleep Score to give you an insight to your overall sleep quality

ScoreTotal Score
Fitbit Versa02
Fitbit Versa 216

Water Resistance

Both devices have water resistance to 50 metres and can be used in the pool. Although neither device has any swim tracking functionality and simply record your active time.

ScoreTotal Score
Fitbit Versa13
Fitbit Versa 217

Specifications

 Fitbit VersaFitbit Versa 2
Always on displayNoYes
Battery life5 days6 days
Built in microphoneNoYes
GPSConnected GPSConnected GPS
HR monitoring24 hours24 hours
NFC ChipNoYes
ScreenLCDAMOLED
Sleep scoreNoYes
Water Resistance50 metres50 metres
Total Score3/77/7
PriceCheck price at AmazonCheck price at Amazon

Should I upgrade from the Fitbit Versa?

Overall, we think there is no compelling reason to upgrade if you are happy with your current Vera. A lot of the functionality is Fitbit OS specific and will probably filter down to the Versa in time. You need to make the decision based on whether some of the new functionality such as Always on Display, Alexa integration and quick replies on Android are important enough for you to spend the cash and take the leap.

Should I buy the Fitbit Versa or the Fitbit Versa 2?

If it comes down to a decision between the Versa and Versa 2 you need to decide whether the newer features on the Versa 2 are important to you.

If you can live without them both watches share a lot of similar functionality – why not save yourself some cash and go with the Versa.

On the other hand, if you want to benefit from the brighter AMOLED screen, alway on display functionality and Alexa integration Fitbit are pricing the Versa 2 very competitively against the older model.

7 fitness trackers that measure blood pressure

7 fitness trackers that measure blood pressure

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There are a lot of fitness trackers on the market and a lot of different features for each one, so it can be difficult to make an educated decision about which one to make. However if you are looking for a fitness tracker that also measures blood pressure, you’ll be able to narrow your field significantly. The technology for measuring blood pressure is still fairly new, so there are not many trackers with this feature. 

That begs the question: Are there enough viable choices for fitness trackers? Check out this list of some of the best fitness trackers with blood pressure to find out which one will work for you. 

Omron HeartGuide 

Pros

Omron has been a big name in blood pressure monitoring for several years, so the name alone comes with a lot of clout. Being a big name in blood pressure, it was important that their smartwatch was cleared by the FDA as an accurate monitor before it hit the market, which it was. 

This fitness tracker does not employ the commonly used PPG technology that is found in all other fitness trackers that claim to monitor blood pressure, but instead has an inflatable cuff that is supposed to be more accurate. 

Cons

Though the inflatable cuff is more accurate, it isn’t exactly convenient. No one likes to be interrupted during their day to have their blood circulation cut off. You can make the settings whatever you want, but if you don’t like the feel of the inflatable cuff to get your blood pressure, this might not be an option for you. 

The design is a good one, and squeezing an inflatable cuff into a smartwatch is a challenge, but it does remain that it is more bulky than most smartwatches. If you are someone who has a heart condition however, this design is much more sleek than the typical wrist worn wireless blood pressure monitors. 

Asus VivoWatch BP

Pros

The Asus VivoWatch BP is a fairly new model of fitness tracker with a more accurate blood pressure monitor than most. It has two sensors, one for ECG and one to read your PPG through your finger. With a combination of the two readings, you can get a more accurate read than some of the other fitness trackers that list blood pressure monitoring among their features. 

Compared to the bulky Omron Heartguide, this smartwatch is light as a feather and has a sleek design that won’t get in your way as you go about your daily activities. 

If you record your blood pressure a few times a day, you can send it to your physician and he or she can have a more accurate idea of your blood pressure condition throughout the day. 

Cons

The watch takes two hands to get a reading, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is more “hands on” than other fitness trackers. 

This smartwatch also doesn’t offer many more features than the basic step counter, heart rate monitor, sleep tracker etc. It isn’t really a watch that you would use to scroll through apps and really personalize your health goals. However, if you just want to have basic health tracking features, then this is a great option without getting too technical. 

MorePro Fitness Tracker

Pros

The MorePro is another affordable option for a fitness tracker, especially with a blood pressure feature. It is lightweight and has a comfortable design. There are not too many screens to scroll through and it is very simple for even the least tech savvy user. 

Cons

This uses PPG technology on the wrist and it records at a higher blood pressure than what is typically recorded from the upper arm. This is a good option for the price and can be useful to track trends in your blood pressure, but again, it isn’t medically graded accurate. 

Fitfort Fitness Tracker

Pros

The Fitfort fitness tracker comes at a very affordable price and has all the features you would want in a fitness tracker. It doesn’t have smart social apps, but it has all the other basic fitness features.

Cons

The Fitfort uses PPG like most of the other fitness trackers on this list, and has the common problems that come with it. It typically records blood pressure higher than that person normally would. This is a problem with PPG technology and the location of the wrist. It might not be a big deal to some, but if you are buying the tracker for the purpose of recording an accurate blood pressure reading, you may want to check its accuracy against blood pressure monitors. 

Bolzun Fitness Tracker B15P

Pros

Many people say that a fitness tracker is only as good as its app, and the app that comes with this tracker is simple to use and helpful. The Bolzun Fitness Tracker B15P is reviewed to be about on par with the other fitness trackers that measure blood pressure through PPG technology. However, many reviewers have found that the blood pressure monitoring becomes more accurate over time. The more you use it, the better calibrated it is to your body. 

Cons

The app is also simple to use and easy to navigate, though your blood pressure will not automatically show up in the app each time you use it. 

Everything else that the tracker records shows up automatically, namely the step counter and calorie calculator, but the blood pressure requires that you press a button in the app for it to record the information each time you take your pressure. 

AOE Fitness Tracker

Pros

This may be one of the most affordable fitness trackers on the market, let alone blood pressure specific fitness trackers. It works well with an app and you can customize the screen to have specific notifications. The battery life lasts a long time and provides continuous heart rate and blood pressure monitoring. 

Cons

Again, it is not medically graded for blood pressure. Especially when fitness trackers are continuously recording blood pressure data–rather than periodically–the data can be incorrect. The blood pressure monitors that have the most accurate readings are the ones that require that you sit still for about a minute with your wrist and heart height. PPG can be sensitive to movement, so the blood pressure reading in this particular fitness tracker is probably off by a bit. 

YAMAY Fitness Tracker 

Pros

Again, another affordable fitness tracker option. The app and fitness tracker are easy to use and have a simple design. The pedometer is accurate without GPS. 

Cons

As with many of the above mentioned trackers, it uses PPG and has a higher than normal blood pressure rate when used. Again, this is an issue with the technology available currently and the location of the fitness tracker on the body. 

The design can also be a bit fragile. The straps pull off of a USB plug for charging and some users have complained that it breaks if you’re not careful pulling the strap off. 

External Blood Pressure Monitors

As mentioned earlier, blood pressure monitoring is fairly new to the fitness tracker market. Tracking blood pressure is an important tool that would benefit every person at every fitness level, however it remains to be in its beginning stages of continuous measurement. 

If you have a serious heart condition, consult your physician about what options would be best for you to monitor your blood pressure. Perhaps one of these on this list will be sufficient, but if you have a very serious condition, you will probably want to go for something approved by the FDA.

More information is always better than less, so if you have a fitness tracker using PPG that you have found to be fairly accurate, it can’t hurt to use that continuously to track your blood pressure while regularly checking in with an external blood pressure monitor. If you would like a list of some external monitors that are compatible with your phone, check out the end of our article titled “Can Fitness Trackers Measure Blood Pressure?

Conclusion

Though there are very few medically graded options for a blood pressure monitor available today, there are high hopes for technology to develop in the near future. The big names in fitness tracking such as Garmin, Fitbit, and Apple, as yet have not put out a reliable blood pressure monitor, likely because they are working on the highest quality technology to make a big splash when they release it. This is definitely a feature to keep your eye out for in the coming years.

How do fitness trackers measure blood pressure

How do fitness trackers measure blood pressure

Measuring blood pressure through a fitness tracker is a relatively new feature that tracker companies are just starting to develop. Though there may not be many options for blood pressure monitoring trackers, there are some on the market, and they are getting more and more accurate.

So how do fitness trackers measure blood pressure? There are three main methods to finding out your blood pressure through fitness trackers. The most accurate is through traditional cuff inflation, with photoplethysmography (PPG) at a close second, or, a little less conveniently, from external devices. Read on for more information about each method. 

Cuff

Currently, there is one smartwatch fitness tracker on the market that uses an inflatable cuff at the wrist to measure blood pressure and that is the Omron Heartguide. You can find out a little more about the Heartguide here.

Many argue that measuring blood pressure using the cuff method is the most accurate way to do it. This claim is substantiated by the FDA, since the Omron Heartguide is the only smartwatch approved to check blood pressure, though other smartwatches and fitness trackers have blood pressure tracking listed among their features. 

However, just because Omron is the only one approved to check blood pressure accurately, doesn’t mean that some of the other fitness trackers aren’t accurate if used correctly. The technology for photoplethysmography PPG is still fairly new; if you don’t have a heart condition, you may want to compare one of the PPG trackers against a blood pressure monitor to check accuracy. 

If you do have a heart condition, then the best route to take would be to ask your physician for advice, or bring your tracker in to the doctors office to compare it with your physician’s reading. 

Photoplethysmography (PPG)

The technology that is used in most fitness trackers that claim to read blood pressure is photoplethysmography or PPG. This process is technical but simply put, the device emits a light and measures the reflection of this light to, in turn, measure the blood volume. According to the National Center of Biotechnology Information, the device will emit an infrared light to measure the blood flow deep in the tissue or muscles. If the device emits a green light, it is commonly measuring the absorption of oxygen in the blood (NCBI). 

This is the technology that is used in finger cuffs that you may have used at the doctors office. It does an alright job, but it is not accurate enough for most doctors to use say, during a surgery.

This is also the technology that is used in many fitness trackers that claim that they record blood pressure. It is not technically blood pressure, but the measurements are correlated enough to replace a blood pressure measurement. 

External Devices

If you aren’t the type of person who wants to have a wrist cuff inflating on you several times in a day, but you do want to have the most accurate blood pressure readings possible, then an external blood pressure device might be just what the doctor ordered–literally. 

There are several blood pressure monitors on the market currently that will pair with your phone or smartwatch either with a cord or through bluetooth, making sure that all your information is in the right place.

The wrist is arguably not the best place for measuring blood pressure. The arteries are very small and the bones can also get in the way of the most accurate reading. This is why most doctors prefer to take your blood pressure on your upper arm where the arteries are thicker and a cuff can apply more pressure. 

So if you are planning on tracking your blood pressure because you have a mild curiosity about how your fitness level is affecting it, you’ll probably be just fine with the PPG method of measuring blood pressure. If, however, you have a heart condition already, you may want to invest in one of the external devices, or even do both to measure the accuracy against each other. 

Why Is Ambulatory Blood Pressure Beneficial?

Your blood pressure is arguably the most important aspect of your health to monitor. This is because it is a preliminary symptom of hardening of the arteries, stroke, kidney disease, or heart attack. 

The American Heart Association states that “High blood pressure is a largely symptomless ‘silent killer.’ If you ignore your blood pressure because you think a certain symptom or sign will alert you to the problem, you are taking a dangerous chance with your life” (AMA).

Office Monitoring Is Not Enough

Many people who have “white coat hypertension” or get overly nervous at doctors appointments resulting in high blood pressure, are recommended to use ambulatory blood pressure monitoring. This is a portable blood pressure cuff that the patient can wear throughout his or her daily activities to give his or her physician a 24 hour period of time of regular monitoring. 

The measurement that a doctor gets in the office is meant to be a resting blood pressure, and whether you get nervous around doctors or you simply had to rush to get to your appointment, your blood pressure could be much higher than what your daily average might be. 

This is why ambulatory blood pressure monitoring is the preferred method of getting an accurate reading of blood pressure if your doctor is determining to diagnose you with hypertension. An average of your blood pressure readings throughout the day, including periods of exercise and sleep, is the most accurate way to measure your blood pressure and your overall health. 

With heart disease the leading worldwide cause of death, and high blood pressure the leading indicator of heart disease, blood pressure is more important than ever to monitor. Therefore,  having a blood pressure monitor on your fitness tracker should be an important feature that you look for. 

Why Are There Not More BP Fitness Trackers?

If you search for fitness trackers that measure blood pressure, you don’t come up with too many immediate results. 

Why is this? One of the primary reasons why there aren’t very many trackers that measure blood pressure, in the US at least, is since fitness trackers deal with your health, they have to pass certain FDA approved regulations. There are some on the market that have been deemed acceptable, but not recommended. 

There is only one BP fitness tracker that is currently passed by the FDA, the Omron Heartguide, and you can find that right here.

Though the wrist is currently not an ideal place to measure blood pressure, and you will get a more accurate reading on your upper arm, technology is only getting better with time, and there may be a day in the very near future where blood pressure monitoring from the wrist in fitness trackers is commonplace.  

New Technology

Many people want to measure their blood pressure regularly, if not continuously, but very few people want to deal with the inconvenience of having an inflatable cuff on their wrist cutting off their blood flow every 15 to 30 minutes. Even with the Omron Heartguide, you do have to stop what you’re doing and hold your wrist at heart level to get an accurate reading. 

Right now, a fitness tracker with an inflatable cuff, is a good idea, but still impractical for frequent everyday use. This is why scientists are working on a new technology that doesn’t require an inflatable cuff or an infrared light to get a blood pressure measurement. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology US Department of Commerce (NIST), cuffless accurate blood pressure monitors may not be far off. 

The NIST explains that scientists are working on a blood pressure monitor, that instead of inflating, will “gauge subtle pressure changes at the surface of your skin above one of the main wrist arteries – the radial artery – without regularly cutting off your circulation” (NIST). 

The challenge with this method of measuring blood pressure, other than it has never been done before, is that the scientists have to create a model that mimics arteries in the wrist to test it, which they have done using a 3D printer. 

They use a silicone pad to mimic the tissue of an arm and have a fake artery running through it. Then they use sensors to record data as different weights are pulsed against the silicone. In this controlled environment, they can see how accurate their measurements are and what kinds of readings the sensors are picking up. This technology still has some work to go, but could be ready for a prototype in the near future. 

Conclusion

The technology for measuring blood pressure is advanced as it stands now, but still flawed. There is definitely room to grow and, in an overly saturated market of fitness trackers, it will be interesting to see which companies pursue developing this technology to stand out from the crowd. Blood pressure is a vital part of overall health and the technology to monitor it accurately will prove to be worth the effort of developing. 

Can fitness trackers measure blood pressure?

Can fitness trackers measure blood pressure?

Blood pressure is a big component of your health, which is why it is the first thing doctors will check each time you come in for a physical. It is something that most people rarely think about day to day, but is a great indicator of how healthy you are. 

So maybe this is of interest if you’re a fitness junkie, or even just curious

Can fitness trackers measure blood pressure? Well, yes and no. There are quite a few fitness trackers on the market today that claim to monitor blood pressure, and in all honesty, most of them have decent reviews for accuracy, though they seem to record a bit high. However, currently there is only one that is officially approved by the FDA for blood pressure monitoring. You can read more about that here. Read on to find out all the information about measuring blood pressure through fitness trackers.

What Is Blood Pressure?

The term “blood pressure” sounds so much nicer than the measurement of blood pushing against the sides of your blood vessels, but that is essentially what it is. When you measure your blood pressure it is just telling you how much strain your heart is going through to pump the blood throughout your body. 

What Is Your Target BP?

There are two parts to your blood pressure: systolic and diastolic. Systolic, the top number when reading blood pressure is always the highest as it is reading the amount the amount of pressure when your heart is pushing the blood. Diastolic is the bottom number and the lower number because it is reading when the heart is between beats. 

A normal resting BP reading is about 120/80 or below. Many people won’t have that exact blood pressure, but that is the normal range. Typically, the lower the blood pressure, the healthier you are, but of course there are limitations to that. If you get lightheaded easily or faint, then that is a good indicator that your blood pressure is too low. This can happen if your blood volume is low due to an injury or shock. However, if you have extremely low blood pressure readings and no symptoms, then you may just have an inaccurate reading. 

How Do Fitness Trackers Measure BP?

Measuring blood pressure with a fitness tracker is a complicated process, but you can read in depth about it here in our post “How Do Fitness Trackers Measure Blood Pressure?

Most fitness trackers use PPG or photoplethysmography, which means that your fitness tracker will emit a light source into your wrist and measure the reflected light as it bounces back to gauge the blood volume in your wrist. 

The FDA has not technically approved fitness trackers that use this method as an accurate blood pressure monitor, but many users have been surprised by how accurate they find their PPG trackers to be. It does tend to measure a bit higher than normal, so if you have a serious heart condition, you may want to ask your doctor what he or she recommends you use for a blood pressure monitor. Or you could use one of the external blood pressure monitors listed at the end of this post. Using your fitness tracker to monitor your blood pressure regularly while checking it occasionally with a cuff pressure monitor is also a great option. 

How Accurate Are Wrist Blood Pressure Monitors? 

If it is overly difficult for wrist fitness trackers to be approved by the FDA as a blood pressure monitor, then you can assume that they are difficult to make accurate. According to the Mayo Clinic, the wrist and fingers are challenging spots to get an accurate blood pressure reading because the the wrist arteries are narrower and not as deep under your skin as those of the upper arm” (Mayo Clinic).

They go on to explain that another reason why wrist blood pressure readings are difficult to get is because the fitness tracker should be held at heart level each time to get an accurate reading. It is also difficult to get an active reading since every kind of blood pressure monitoring method, whether by cuff or through PPG, is sensitive to movement.

For these reasons, blood pressure readings at the wrist, especially continuously through PPG monitoring are more than likely at least slightly inaccurate. Though there is groundbreaking new technology being developed all the time. You can read about the new technology being worked on by Tufts Medical School and the National Institute of Standards and Technology at the end of this post here.

Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor Options

Because blood pressure is difficult to measure at the wrist, many fitness trackers haven’t developed this feature to where it is working perfectly. However, all fitness experts recognize the importance of having a low blood pressure and that tracking your blood pressure throughout the day can be helpful to figure out how to get your health where you want it to be. 

For this reason, some fitness trackers are equipped with app capabilities to connect to an external blood pressure monitoring device. 

You may wonder why you would ever want to have an external device that connects to your phone, tablet, or watch rather than just to have a generic blood pressure monitor. There are a few reasons why connecting to your device is a feature you would want to look for. 

  1. It’s convenient to record the data.
  2. All your fitness information will be stored in one place.
  3. You can easily send this information to your physician for reference.
  4. You can view trends and compare them against activity levels during your day. 

Here are some of the blood pressure monitoring devices that are compatible with phones:

MOCACuff

This is FDA approved and the reading is taken at the wrist, which is convenient. This cuff is compatible with both iOS and Android using the MOCACARE app. 

QardioArm

Compatible with iOS and Android for use with phones, tablets, and smartwatches through Bluetooth and free app. This is medically accurate and very portable. 

Omron Gold Blood Pressure Monitor

This wrist worn monitor is comfortable and easy to use, especially for people who experience discomfort with upper arm readings. This is compatible with iOS, Android, and Alexa enabled devices. It can be used to track blood pressure for two users and connects to devices through Bluetooth. One other helpful feature is position directing; it will tell you when your wrist is in the correct position at heart level. It also is discreet and completely silent when inflating. 

OMRON 10 Series Wireless Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor

Like the Gold Blood Pressure Monitor, the Omron 10 series is wireless, for up to two users. It will take three consecutive readings and average them to get the most accurate reading possible. 

Greater Goods Bluetooth Blood Pressure Monitor Cuff

This is an affordable option for a wireless blood pressure cuff that connects to your smartphone. A portion of all sales goes to charity as well. 

Conclusion

Overall, measuring blood pressure is much more complicated than it sounds and putting it in a fitness tracker is a huge challenge to undertake. This will be the next big thing to look for in fitness trackers throughout the next few years, and whatever company figures out the technology to get the most accurate readings will likely have an edge over the market.