Fitness trackers and smartwatches have helped us reach our daily activity targets and remain healthy in lockdown. Now another, potentially life-saving application for these devices has emerged.

Numerous research programs now reveal that heart rate data can be a reliable early indicator for Covid-19 and other influenza infections before actual symptoms start.

For instance, a study published in the Lancet Digital Health journal in January 2020 found that data from a Fitbit device could predict the number of influenza-like illnesses in the general US population as well as or better than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s epidemiological models.

READ MORE: Fitbit adds features to help you navigate the COVID-19 outbreak

Global research underway

Various global research projects currently underway are now collecting data from wearables like Fitbit devices, worn by study participants as well as anonymised data from broader user bases to combat Covid-19.

Analysing this data can help to reveal trends and make associations that could potentially predict infections and identify emerging hot spots or outbreaks.

Fitbit is collaborating with institutions like The Scripps Research Institute and Stanford Medicine on research to determine if tracking changes in heart rate, activity, and sleep can help detect, track, and contain Covid-19.

And the emerging evidence affirms how tracking data from wearables can help predict new outbreaks.

Early detection is critical to stop the spread of the disease, but the ability for individual users to identify variations to everyday metrics has become vital due to the global shortage of testing kits and test result backlogs.

READ MORE: Fitbit reveals its most advanced health smartwatch – the Sense

Real-time feedback

Wearables are beneficial because they provide real-time, continuous information and feedback. The devices also collect this data passively, which means users don’t have to manually input any information.

This simplicity and their growing pervasiveness could make them a vital weapon in the battle against the novel coronavirus.

Importantly, researchers can segment anonymised data geographically to provide more specific disease projections and tracking capabilities. Projection accuracy will also improve as researchers collect more data, which would allow government and healthcare officials to act faster.

READ MORE: Updated Fitbit Versa 3 gives users more features

Real-world applications

Even businesses are applying this technology to proactively monitor worker health. Fitbit is helping companies manage returning workforces amid the Covid-19 pandemic with its Ready for Work tool.

The solution aims to help reintroduce workers back into the workplace safely by helping employees identify potential signs or symptoms using key device-derived metrics and self-reported symptoms.

A digital daily check-in feature enables users to log information about exposure, symptoms and their current body temperature and provides guidance on whether to go into the workplace.

READ MORE: Fitbit Charge 4 now available at Dis-Chem stores

Do your bit

Fitbit users can also support on-going Covid-19-related health research to help stop the spread of the virus.

Simply wear your Fitbit device with heart rate tracking and choose to share your data in an anonymised manner.

Fitbit users can learn more about The Scripps DETECT study and The Stanford Healthcare Innovation Lab Covid-19 PROTECT wearables study in the new Covid-19 tab in the Fitbit app (available on Google Play and the App Store).

The designated Covid-19 tab in the app also makes it easy for users to access Covid-19-related information, support and resources, including relevant tools and content to stay mentally and physically healthy and happy at home by improving sleep, nutrition and movement habits, and manage stress.

READ MORE: Get more from the new Fitbit Inspire 2

Tools available via the app include:

  • A 90-day free trial of Premium, including 40+ Premium at-home workouts, meditations, sleep tracks, and more.
  • New clock faces, like the Clean Cues clock face, for Fitbit smartwatches that offer a friendly reminder and timer for washing your hands.
  • Motivational reminders to take breaths, stretch, and move.
  • Advanced sleep tools and guided programs.
  • Mindfulness content and Relax guided breathing exercises or sessions via Premium.
  • Ways to connect with others to stay motivated as a part of our global Fitbit community.
  • The latest info with easy access to real-time updates from the World Health Organization to stay safe, informed and healthy.

Fitbit will continue to bring users relevant and useful insights through its research of aggregated, anonymised Fitbit data to better understand the impact of Covid-19, just like it did with global activity levels and sleep patterns.