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.

Accuracy?

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.

Product Review

Samsung's $99 fitness tracker takes on Fitbit. Can it keep pace?

Samsung’s going toe-to-toe against Fitbit’s Inspire HR with its own $99 fitness tracker -- the Galaxy Fit. It also has a heart rate monitor, can automatically detect six workouts, and has a battery that can last for days.
Deals

Fitbit Versa and Samsung Gear fitness smartwatches get big Amazon price cuts

Some of the best options can get pretty pricey, but with smartwatch discounts on the Fitbit Versa and Samsung Gear Sport, they are really quite affordable right now. You can save up to $125 on a new fitness watch.
Deals

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for June 2019

Smartwatches make life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. If you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, here are the best smartwatch deals for June 2019.
Health & Fitness

Stop waking up groggy every morning. Snooze smarter with the best sleep gadgets

Do you snore? Toss and turn? Alternate between extremely hot and extremely cold body temperatures at night? A deluge of smart sleep technology on the market aims to help you get a better night of shut-eye.
Deals

Before buying an Apple Watch, check out this cheap smartwatch under $100

Not looking to spend hundreds of dollars on a smartwatch? You might want to consider this little-known but well-reviewed cheap smartwatch from Amazfit called the Bip. It's on sale on Amazon, and you can have it in one day if you're a Prime…
Home Theater

The best Apple AirPod accessories can extend your high-end earbuds' life span

It might seem a bit strange to buy an accessory for an accessory, but sometimes you need a little something extra, like a case, cover, or transmitter, to get the most out of your Apple AirPods.
Deals

The GoPro Hero7 action camera gets price cut on Amazon ahead of Father’s Day

Got an adventurous Dad? If so, a GoPro action camera will make a great Father’s Day gifts. Ahead of Father’s Day, capture the GoPro Hero7 Black on Amazon for just $329, down from its normal $400. Don't just settle for socks again this…
Deals

The Apple Watch Series 4 is still at its lowest price for Father’s Day

Sales are continuing on select Apple Watch at both Amazon and Walmart through Father's Day, including a deal on the 38mm Series 3 GPS that is one of the lowest prices we've seen yet, and the new and slightly larger 40mm Series 4.
Wearables

Exclusive: This is Mobvoi’s next Wear OS smartwatch, and it likely adds 4G LTE

Mobvoi may not be a household name in the U.S., but it sells affordable smartwatches running Google's Wear OS platform. The company's next watch has leaked -- by Mobvoi itself -- and Digital Trends managed to snap a screenshot.
Emerging Tech

This lifesaving wearable could diagnose strokes more accurately

A new breakthrough wearable device uses two light measurement techniques to track the body's blood circulation — and accurately predict deadly strokes in the process. Here's how it works.
Wearables

Samsung's $99 Galaxy Fit fitness tracker is now available in the U.S.

Looking for a new fitness buddy? Samsung just launched the Galaxy Watch Active and the Galaxy Fit, two new wearables with a raft of fitness-focused features that'll keep you moving and get you down to the gym.
Home Theater

Diagnose and fix some common Apple AirPods problems with our handy guide

Apple’s AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds we’ve seen, but they’re not perfect. If you’re having trouble, take a look at our guide to the most common problems and what you can do to fix them.
Outdoors

The best smart helmets are full of cool tech, and totally worth the messy hair

Helmets might be a haircut's worst nightmare, but they're constantly evolving, and have undergone a 21st-century makeover. No matter your sport, here are the best smart helmets currently on the market.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Plant-based shoes and a ukulele learning aid

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!