India is witnessing a growing trend of fitness consciousness, and to top it, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led everyone to prioritize their health and fitness goals even more. 

You might also be doing it all - from exercising regularly to trying to follow a sleep schedule, but is it enough? And are you doing it the right way?

Thanks to technology - a single portable, wearable device that can track your heart rate, calories burnt, fluid intake (water, coffee, juices, etc.,) in a day, your sleep pattern, and your current blood oxygen level, is available to the consumers today. 

Fitness bands are a buzz these days. Besides adding to your style quotient, they are your personal health ambassadors that can track your daily health. It is a device to monitor and track fitness-related metrics such as calories consumed, distance walked or ran, or the rate of your heartbeat.

Fitness bands come in all shapes and sizes, and if you think it will motivate you to truly achieve your health/fitness/weight goals or help you train harder, then there’s no reason not to invest in one. They are easy-to-carry, always with you on the go- at work, home, or at your gym.

It comes as no shock that the market for fitness wearables, especially wristbands has been growing at 30% YoY (year on year) for the past couple of years now. However, before you decide to pick the one that truly suits you and your fitness needs, it is important to understand after all how these fitness bands work.

Workings of a Wearable Fitness Tracker/Band: How They Do What They Do?

Fitness trackers are easy to use and very convenient to measure various vital body parameters. These trackers are made up of a ton of components including sensors that determine body movements and many other changes that happen in your body, such as a change in your body temperature.

Typically, a fitness tracker is synced with a mobile phone application or software downloaded onto your laptop/desktop. Next, you personalize the device to understand you better by providing data such as your age, height, weight, gender, and lifestyle information. 

This enables the application to make better sense of the data captured by the sensors on the fitness tracker/band. While you are wearing the band, all your movements are recorded and the collected data is processed by the application instantly. 

A majority of the fitness bands that are available today come with a rechargeable battery which may last between 1 to 21 days and have to be recharged, just like your mobile phone.

Most fitness trackers function in the following ways to capture data:

1. Counting daily steps. The most basic feature of any fitness tracker, i.e., counting the number of steps walked, distance run or stairs climbed, is done simply through motion sensors. The accelerometer and GPS tracker work hand-in-hand to collect this data. 

The accelerometer is the primary sensor that measures acceleration (a measure of how fast an object moves). A GPS (Global Positioning System) tracker records the speed, distance, location and elevation.

2. Tracking your workouts. Certain fitness trackers have more advanced motion sensors that are accurate and determine the exact body positions during a workout. This positional data can outline what exercises and workouts you are doing automatically and track them without any intervention.

3. Monitoring heart rate and stress. Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats in a minute and it can vary from person to person. For adults, the ideal heart rate should be between 60–100 beats per minute, which can vary when you are sleeping, having a fever, under stress, on medications, or while working out.

Most people measure their heart rate to determine how hard their body has been working. Monitoring your heart rate with a fitness tracker will help you avoid stress injury to your heart during your workout. Also, identify any other heart conditions.

Fitness trackers use a heart rate sensor which shines a specialised light on your skin that is designed to figure out how much blood is flowing in the embedded blood vessels, based on how much light is reflected back. Some trackers use the same technology as the heart-rate monitors present on treadmills in a gym.  

Higher-end trackers have EDA (electrodermal activity) sensors that detect subtle electrical changes in the sweat level of your skin. This coupled with heart rate, ECG, and skin temperature helps in calculating your stress levels. 

4. Measuring blood oxygen (SpO2) levels. SpO2, also known as oxygen saturation, is a measure of the amount of oxygen in your blood which is represented in percentage. Your body needs to maintain a certain level of oxygen in the blood to function efficiently. A normal reading of SpO2 would be anywhere between 95 to 100 percent.

Most often, the colour of your blood is used to determine the oxygenation level. Fully oxygenated blood is bright red, while deoxygenated blood (blood that has low oxygen saturation) is a slightly darker red or purple in colour. 

5. Tracking other metrics using additional sensors. Additional sensors on fitness trackers measure everything from perspiration (sweating), to minute electrical impulses that your heart sends out. 

  • Bioimpedance sensor measures your sleep, respiration rate (number of breaths you take per minute), and water level (the total amount of fluids in your body).

  • Ultraviolet sensors track ultraviolet (UV) radiation to let you know if the sunlight outside is harmful or not. UV rays are short, electromagnetic waves, emitted from the sun, that are harmful for your skin.

  • Altimeter detects changes in altitude. It can tell whether you are climbing stairs up or down or hiking on a mountain slope.

Barring these, many other sensors perform various functions such as helping you receive or disconnect an incoming call on your phone, and putting the tracker on sleep mode to save battery when you are not wearing or using it.

While fitness bands are a great way to remind you to keep moving, stay active, drink water, reach your ideal weight and not finish your favourite cookies in one evening, etc., they also come with limitations.

Drawbacks of Wearable Fitness Trackers

The best and high-end fitness trackers available in the market are expensive to buy. You might have to plan and save up to have one if you decide to go for it.

Most trackers have limited battery life and are not always with you on the go! If your fitness band runs out of charge, you will not be able to keep track of your steps or workouts, throughout the day. 

The biggest drawback of a fitness band is accuracy. Some trackers do not provide 100% accurate information and the metrics shown to you might be not reliable in some cases. 

Nonetheless, fitness trackers are a great way to get you started and get you moving towards those fitness goals you want to crack! Remember to pick the one that will best suit your needs.

Disclaimer: This article is written by Practo for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.