Fitness watches do more harm than good for heart patients

Fitness watches do more harm than good for heart patients

Fitness watches ‘make you feel guilty and anxious’: Heart patients are warned not to use health-tracking devices as new research suggests they do more harm than good

  • Owners of devices such as Fitbits become more in tune with their health
  • But they suffer anxiety when they miss exercise targets or misinterpret data
  • Researchers said they should be used with professionals to limit side effects 

Heart patients should not use fitness watches because they do more harm than good, researchers said yesterday.

Owners of devices such as Fitbits become more in tune with their health but suffer guilt and anxiety when they miss exercise targets or misinterpret data.

They may link a fast pulse with an increased risk of heart attack or fear that a lower than usual amount of sleep will exacerbate their illness. Dr Tariq Osman Andersen said: ‘Our study shows that, overall, self-measurements are more problematic than beneficial when it comes to the patient experience.

Owners of devices such as Fitbits become more in tune with their health but suffer guilt and anxiety when they miss exercise targets or misinterpret data

‘Patients begin to use the information from their Fitbits just as they would use a doctor. However, they don’t get help interpreting their watch data. This makes them unnecessarily anxious, or they may learn something that is far from reality.’

Published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the study examined 27 heart patients who used fitness watches to measure sleep, heart rate and physical activity.

Although the patients learned more about their illnesses and were motivated to exercise during the six months that they wore the watches, they also became more anxious. Dr Andersen, of the University of Copenhagen, who completed the study with help from health firm Vital Beats, added: ‘The problem is you cannot use data directly related to heart disease because the watch is designed for sports and wellness, as opposed to managing disease.’

The researchers said fitness watches and their accompanying apps offered great promise for heart patients but should be used in partnership with healthcare professionals to limit unwanted side effects.

They may link a fast pulse with an increased risk of heart attack or fear that a lower than usual amount of sleep will exacerbate their illness

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