Skip to main content

Fitbit trackers may help to improve your health — even if you don’t own one

fitbits health research project fitbit alta hr review 2925
Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends
Fitbit’s reputation for building reliable fitness trackers is solid enough that the government has decided to use 10,000 of them in its All of Us health research program run by the National Institute of Health (NIH).

All of Us is part of a wider, long-term research effort called the Precision Medicine Initiative, announced in 2015 by then-President Barack Obama. The aim is to gather anonymous lifestyle, biological, and environmental data from a million Americans to learn about how individual differences affect health, and to use the findings to develop better individualized care.

As part of the research, the NIH will hand out 10,000 Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Alta HR devices to participants, which they’ll be asked to wear for a period of one year.

“The study will generate a data set that presents a unique opportunity to explore the relationship between health indicators such as physical activity, heart rate, and sleep in conjunction with other critical health outcomes that will be captured as part of All of Us,” Fitbit said in a release.

Adam Pellegrini, general manager of Fitbit Health Solutions, said that “as part of the global shift toward precision medicine, wearable data has the potential to inform highly personalized health care.”

So why were Fitbits chosen over other devices? Importantly, the Charge 2 and Alta HR track a combination of physical activity, sleep, and heart rate parameters, all useful data for the researchers. Ease of use and a decent battery life were also listed as factors behind their selection.

Fitbit devices are also already popular among health researchers; in fact, they’re the most commonly used tracker in this field. According to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 89 percent of trackers used in published biomedical research are made by Fitbit, as are 83 percent of devices used in clinical trials. In NIH-funded research the figure jumps to 95 percent.


Clearly those working in the medical field are confident about the accuracy of Fitbit’s devices, an issue of understandable concern among anyone that decides to fork out for a fitness tracker. In 2016, a class-action lawsuit claimed that the PurePulse sensor that’s built into Fitbit’s trackers failed to accurately measure the heart rate. Subsequent tests by Consumer Reports, however, said Fitbit’s devices “passed our tests handily, accurately recording heart rates at everything from a leisurely walk up to a fast run.”

On its own site, Fitbit notes that accuracy is “affected by physiology, location of device, and different movements,” and offers tips on how to get accurate readouts.

Besides all of the data coming in from the 10,000 Fitbit participants, the All of Us study will gather a huge amount of other information from at least a million participants, which when analyzed together will help researchers learn more about the relationship between lifestyle behaviors and health outcomes, leading to more effective ways of preventing and treating disease.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Don’t want to share your AC? You may want to look into the evaSmart EV-3000

For all those moments that you haven't felt particularly generous about your air conditioning, you now have a way to keep all the cold air in a room to yourself. Meet the evaSmart EV-3000 from Evapolar, branded as a truly personal AC unit. So if you have no interest in sharing a comfortable ambient temperature with your room- or officemates, but don't want to sweat it out yourself, this just may be the home appliance for you.

Heralded as the most efficient evaporative cooler on the market, this tiny little AC unit knows what it isn't -- a room cooler. Instead, it's intended strictly for personal use, and is capable of cooling around 45 square feet with its 1,200 British thermal unit (BTU) per hour performance specs. Measuring a diminutive 6.87-by-6.70-by-6.69 inches, the evaSmart is not a particularly large device, but it certainly packs a punch when it comes to cooling your immediate area.

Read more
Fitbit's Adventure Races may be the motivation you need on your road to fitness
fitbit adventure races 0530 adventureraces blog header

The best way to get fit? Some friendly competition, of course. And now that summer is upon us, the time is nigh to get outside and get moving. Here to help is wearables maker Fitbit, which has just announced Adventure Races, a new social experiment meant to pit fellow users against one another in some mutually motivational activity.

Adventure Races serves as a sort of extension from Solo Adventures, a personal and noncompetitive program Fitbit launched last summer. While these Adventures were also intended to convince users to get outside and rack up their daily steps, it seems that Fitbit has discovered that there's nothing quite as encouraging as the possibility of being beaten by your friends.

Read more
Your sleep tracker may actually disturb your sleep, study suggests
google infrared sleep tracking filing image

Eight hours seems to be the ideal amount of sleep for most people, even though few of us are able to get that amount of rest. In a bid to improve sleep patterns, many people have turned turned such as sleep trackers, to better optimize their shut-eye. But a new case series suggests that these devices can actually have an opposite effect — prompting sleep problems.

“My students, colleagues, and I were noticing that, as the trend of monitoring sleep using wearable trackers was increasing among our patients, for some it seemed to be creating their sleep disorder,” Kelly Glazer Baron, clinical psychologist from Rush University Medical Center, told Digital Trends. "What we found was when people were fixated on getting a specific number [of hours] every day, they weren’t able to function optimally the next day if they didn’t get that number.”

Read more