Recently I have seen a lot of headlines about fitness trackers that tell the story of how a wearable saved someones life. For instance the heart rate monitor on a wearable showed a recording of an intermittent heart rhythm issue that wasn’t obvious while that patient was in the hospital. That changed the course of that patients medical care and it makes a cool story.
But fitness trackers can change lives in much more subtle ways. An experience I had in my own office made that clear the other day. I have been watching for several years as one of my patient’s blood sugar has trended up. It got to the point that I told her diabetes was imminent. She felt like she was doing everything she could and was resigned to the inevitable diagnosis of diabetes.
A co-worker had suggested to her that a wearable fitness tracker might help her, as it had helped him lose weight. She was open to anything but as she later told me, she did not believe it would make much of a difference. Even though she considered herself “heavy” she believed she was very active and was likely close to 8,000 steps a day anyway. What difference could tracking that be?
The patient admitted to me that she was shocked to find that after a week of wearing a fitness tracker, she was barely averaging 2,000 steps a day! For years she had the false impression of activity, that she was an “active” person. Then the reality of the true level of her health was inescapable.
Now she is really focused on her health. Tracking her steps and activity are a big component of her plan. She needed the cold hard feedback that only her fitness tracker provided. Now her blood sugar is better, not perfect, but better. Though her story is not sensational enough to make headlines, if more people could use a digital health tool like a fitness tracker to take stock of their true and not perceived level of activity they could make better choices for their health moving forward.