Many people like to measure and monitor the changes in their health, metabolism, and fitness. Developing technologies, including smartwatches, wearable fitness bands, and metabolism-tracking devices, make this easily accessible to the public. In this article, we'll look at portable health, fitness, and metabolism trackers and how they can help you track metabolism and health parameters.
Nowadays, you can access some of your health data without going to the hospital.
Health and fitness trackers can measure health data such as heart rate, maximal oxygen consumption, and blood glucose.
Although these technologies help consumers to some degree, they are not a replacement for medical measurements and care.
Why are health trackers important?
Measuring important health parameters can help you to adapt personalized interventions — including nutrition, physical exercise, and lifestyle. Technological devices are constantly developing to provide accurate metabolic measurements without having to go to hospitals or health centers.
Metabolism refers to all physiological reactions that provide energy to the body. There are many parameters to analyze metabolism, including basal metabolic rate, VO2 max (maximal oxygen consumption), heart rate, and blood biomarkers such as blood glucose, insulin, lipid, and hormone levels.
There are wearable technologies and portable devices that can measure many different health parameters.
Wearable health tracker technology
Health and fitness trackers have come a long way, from hospital settings to our own homes and bodies. Now, we can wear the technology and have continuous data about our health. Let's look at the popular health data trackers and learn what they are used for.
Smartwatches and rings
The most commonly used health and fitness trackers are smartwatches and smart rings. They give data on heart rate, VO2 max (maximal oxygen consumption), calories burned, stress, and sleep. Both smartwatches and rings have specific features.
- Optical bio-sensors. These monitor your vital stats.
- Flashing green lights. Your blood absorbs green light and reflects the sensor, which measures the data.
Smartwatches also have apps that save all the data measured by the watch. It's a convenient way to see estimated health data from the comfort of your home. However, they're not the replacement for medical measurements and care.
Heart rate straps
Heart rate straps can use two different technologies:
- Electrical detection
- Optical detection
Electrical detection gives a more accurate reading than optical sensors.
Heart rate straps are generally used by recreational and professional athletes. They give the heart rate data during the physical activity. The data can be used to optimize training programs and increase performance.
Blood glucose monitoring wearables
Glucose is the main energy source of the body. What you eat is transformed into glucose and carried by the blood. Cells take glucose and use it to function and live.
Continuous glucose monitoring can allow you to see changes in blood glucose levels throughout the day and night. Continuous glucose monitors (CGM) have been used by diabetic patients to better manage blood glucose levels.
Wearable CGMs are gaining popularity among physically active people and athletes. This wearable technology may allow sports people to understand how activity, nutrition, sleep, stress, and other factors affect their glucose levels. This information can help develop individualized nutrition strategies and improve performance.
GCMs used for medical and performance purposes can have differences. If you use GCMs for medical reasons, consult your doctor.
Quality sleep has an impact on your health. Most people have sleep problems from time to time. Smartwatches, sleep tracking rings, and headbands are claimed to measure not just sleep duration but sleep quality as well. A study showed that self-reported sleep outcomes matched with data provided by wearable trackers.
We looked at wearable technologies which give some basic health data. There are other technologies that aren't wearable but are still portable enough to use without a professional or going to a health center.
Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is your body's energy use at rest. Your daily energy expenditure is the sum of your basal metabolic rate, the energy cost of physical activity, and food digestion. Having a healthy basal metabolic rate can help with weight management.
You can measure your BMR if you put your weight, height, and age in the BMR formula. However, this gives you an approximate number. The most accurate way to get measured is in a hospital or clinic.
There are portable devices that claim to measure your metabolism accurately. They measure the CO2 concentration that comes through with breath.
If the results show low CO2 concentration, the device concludes that you're burning fat. If the results show high CO2 concentration, the device concludes that you're burning carbohydrates. Also, these devices have apps that give you a nutrition plan according to your measurement.
Keep in mind that commercially available health, fitness, and metabolic trackers are not medical devices. Although they can give people their health data, they shouldn't be used for medical care.
- Journal of Biomedical Informatics. Health at hand: A systematic review of smart watch uses for health and wellness.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Continuous glucose monitoring.
- International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Comparison of wearable trackers’ ability to estimate sleep.
- Interactive Journal of Medical Research. A handheld metabolic device (Lumen) to measure fuel utilization in healthy young adults: device validation study.