Is Your Fitbit Helping Scientists Study Health?

Tanya Edwards
You're not the only one checking your Fitbit. (Photo: Getty Images)
You’re not the only one checking your Fitbit. (Photo: Getty Images)

The best selling fitness tracker, Fitbit, has another fan base beyond those looking to monitor their wellness: scientists. Yep, while some people are getting in their 10,000 steps, researchers are busy looking at their data, Fitbit has revealed.

Over the last four years, Buzzfeed reports, more than 200 studies published by researchers have been based on more than 2 billion minutes of Fitbit data. (Those numbers are according to both Fitbit and Fitabase, a platform that collected the devices’ data on behalf of scientists.) But don’t worry — you’re not an unwilling guinea pig, Fitbit assures Yahoo Beauty, with a representative noting, “The wearable devices are being used specifically by study participants.”

And Fitbit isn’t the only wearable being used in clinical trials. A survey published in May polled members of the influential Association of Clinical Research Organizations (the top medical research association in the world), who reported a huge increase in tracking wearable tech in medical trials. The researchers surveyed said, “Wearables represent a huge opportunity to gather additional data, and make clinical trials more efficient and more convenient for participants.” The Clinical Trials.gov database lists 109 completed, current, and pending clinical studies that feature Fitbit devices.

It makes sense when you consider that, In a traditional study, particularly around fitness and wellness, researchers rely on participants self-reporting their information. But that approach leaves openings for human error, as people can forget, enter their information for the wrong day or time, or just fudge the numbers. And the theoretical advantage of tracking data via Fitbit devices is is that it wouldn’t be subject to human error.

Still, Buzzfeed points out, there are limitations, as Fitbit is a consumer product, and not a medical or scientific device that meets US Food and Drug Administration standards. (But it’s still probably more accurate than people’s self-reported details about workout frequency. Right?)

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