By Amanda Jowsey
Wearable health technology is one way that people are beginning to take their health and wellness into their own hands—or eventually their ears and feet and every other part of the body imaginable.
These devices can increase longevity by improving health and preventing disease, improve communication between doctors and patients and provide peace of mind. Incorporating them into our daily lives is a great way to track poor habits and begin and follow better ones.
They can increase productivity, boost self-esteem and facilitate a grounding sense of purpose.
Here are the latest trends in wearable health technology:
Apple Watch Series 8
This is the most comprehensive wearable device currently available when it comes to overall health. It covers sleep, menstrual cycles, blood pressure, emergency situations and more.
It can act as a sleep tracker, recording time spent in different sleep stages. These stages are key to understanding and getting better sleep. It can help to keep a sleep diary as well, which is one of the first steps to practicing healthy sleeping habits.
A new temperature sensor records your temperature while users sleep, so users can see patterns over time. “Cycle tracking uses this data to provide a retrospective estimate of when you likely ovulated, which can be helpful for family planning. When combined with your heart rate and logged cycle data, you’ll get a detailed view of your menstrual cycle,” Apple said.
With a blood oxygen monitor and electrocardiogram app, users can also stay on top of their heart health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Additional features include crash and fall detection and other emergency services that give unparalleled peace of mind to users.
The Oura Ring focuses primarily on sleep health. It is a more discreet and lightweight option than the Apple watch.
Referred to as “a sleep lab on your finger,” this ring tracks your sleep quality and all four sleep stages: Deep sleep (physically restorative stage), REM sleep (mentally restorative stage), light sleep and awake periods. A daily “sleep score” is then provided based on personalized, real-time data points: total sleep, REM sleep, deep sleep, timing, movement, heart rate, heart rate variability and more.
But how do knowing these things lead to better sleep and eventually better health? By learning a person’s unique sleep patterns, the app then shares personalized guidance and reminders on how to get the best sleep every day. It might recommend when to start winding down for bed, or what to avoid during that day, for example. It creates a personalized sleep routine based on what your body is already doing.
It allows you to keep track of daily and nightly activities or food and drinks you’ve had before bed to see how these things may impact you over time. It offers sleep sounds and stories for relaxation before bed and remembers those that may have helped someone fall asleep faster so it can be used again.
Quality sleep boosts immunity, helps with weight management, decreases the risk for heart disease and brain diseases like dementia, helps to manage stress and improves memory and productivity.
Fitbit by Google
Fitbits by Google are wearable trackers that can help users stay on top of their fitness goals, monitor overall health and even manage stress. They track health metrics like respiration, blood oxygen levels and skin temperature “to uncover trends and changes in your daily well-being,” Google said.
They can help detect and indicate illness or hormone fluctuations, stress and fatigue. They provide a daily readiness score based on activity, sleep and heart rate, and will base exercise recommendations on a person’s daily readiness so that they can work with their body rather than against it.
Studies show that devices like Fitbit do motivate individuals to exercise more frequently and improve overall health. The American Medical Association said adults who take 8,000 or more steps each day have a lower risk of death from numerous diseases than those who take fewer than 4,000. The average American takes 3,000 to 4,000 steps per day.
Jessie Adamski, a close friend and fitness fan from Buffalo, is one of the first people I know who started using a Fitbit in 2016 when she stared her health journey. She still uses it today.
“It motivated me to live a healthier lifestyle,” she said. “I definitely saw an improvement in my overall health.”
She used the Fitbit in conjunction with a food diary app to track calories and make healthier food choices. “At one point I was able to lose 40 pounds in a year by tracking everything,” she added. “It kept me accountable for reaching my goals. My cholesterol levels improved as well as my energy levels. I wanted to get out and be more active.”
“I even got my dog, Ellie, a ‘Fitbark,’ which is basically a Fitbit for dogs. For the first couple years I had her, I made sure both of us reached our goals as much as possible by going on walks, to dog parks and playing. I thought it was a cool thing to have and helped us both be healthy together. Even if people thought I was nuts,” she laughed.
There are currently medical technology companies working on designing smart clothing with sensors attached to fabric or woven in and even implantable and injectable devices. There is infinite potential for medical wearables in the future.
Eventually, they can detect and prevent medical emergencies and even directly communicate with hospitals and doctor’s offices.
People should always consult a healthcare professional before making medical decisions and not rely solely on these devices. Ultimately, health wearables bring peace of mind, inspire us to learn and love ourselves more and let us take control of the things that make us feel better.
Apple Watch: Prices, models and options range from $300-$800
Oura Ring: Starting at $300
Fitbit: Prices, models and options range from $70-$300