The use of smartwatches has become increasingly common throughout the world with over $25 billion USD spent by consumers in 2021 alone.1 One type of wearable devices is the Fitbit. Although Fitbits are available in different models, all are equipped with an accelerometer to count steps taken, a heart rate monitor, and activity trackers.2 These functions allow the user to self-monitor health and may help those who are trying to increase levels of physical activity.2 Given these fitness-related benefits, can using a Fitbit help with diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes and physical activity
In 2019, 463 million people worldwide were affected by type 2 diabetes.3 This number is estimated to rise to 700 million by 2025.3 To effectively manage type 2 diabetes, an increase in physical activity levels and a decrease in sedentary behaviours is recommended.3 Unfortunately, type 2 diabetes is associated with a significant healthcare burden, which makes it critical to promote patient education and general awareness about the disease.3 One of the ways that this can be done is using wearable smart devices, particularly the Fitbit and its health-related applications that serve as a reliable and valid way to monitor physical activity.3 This includes counting daily steps, total distance walked, and tracking the intensity levels of exercise.3
Use of a Fitbit may promote a more active lifestyle in diabetics
A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that daily steps taken and moderate-vigorous physical activity levels increased in type 2 diabetics the first week of using a Fitbit.3 This increase, however, was not sustained over the 4-week study period.3 The Fitbit devices also demonstrated that there was a decrease in time spent being sedentary, although this was not a statistically significant correlation.3
What this research suggests is that the novelty of using a Fitbit may have promoted participants to be more active during the first week of use.3 Since activity levels began to decrease thereafter, a more personalized approach may be necessary to facilitate long-term changes.
Another study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Diabetes looked at whether use of a Fitbit could help with weight loss in those with type 2 diabetes and obesity.4 After a 6-month period, over 50% of participants lost weight.4 From this subset, 18% lost at least 5% of their starting weight.4 According to self-reports, people indicated that they felt more confident in their abilities to manage their health by themselves and that the Fitbit encouraged them to make positive changes when it comes to movement.3,4
Can Fitbit help with diabetes?
As one of the many types of smartwatches available, Fitbits are relatively affordable, easy to use, and do not interfere with day-to-day activity completion.2 Fitbits also provide the advantage of tracking various physical activities, perhaps the most popular of which is daily steps, however users have indicated a need for a more tailored approach to tackle their type 2 diabetes.3
Despite the potential impact of wearable devices to promote leading a more active lifestyle and reduce the economic burden of type 2 diabetes, further data is required to see if the Fitbit can live up to these expectations. Thus, the question, “Can Fitbit help with diabetes?”, does not yet have a crystal-clear answer. If a Fitbit encourages more physical activity, then it may provide positive results in terms of type 2 diabetes management. If it does not, then it might not be right for you. An important consideration is that the impact of using a Fitbit for users with type 2 diabetes may vary from person to person. The information presented in this article is not intended to serve as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider if you are considering using a fitness tracker to reduce the risk of, or manage type 2 diabetes.
1. Statista. Wearables spending by type worldwide 2021. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1065271/wearable-devices-worldwide-spending/. Accessed May 19, 2022.
2. Evenson KR, Goto MM, Furberg RD. Systematic review of the validity and reliability of consumer-wearable activity trackers. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2015;12(1). doi:10.1186/s12966-015-0314-1
3. Hodgson W, Kirk A, Lennon M, Paxton G. Exploring the use of fitbit consumer activity trackers to support active lifestyles in adults with type 2 diabetes: A mixed-methods study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(21). doi:10.3390/ijerph182111598
4. Bender MS, Cooper BA, Park LG, Padash S, Arai S. A feasible and efficacious mobile-phone based lifestyle intervention for Filipino americans with type 2 diabetes: Randomized controlled trial. JMIR Diabetes. 2017;2(2). doi:10.2196/diabetes.8156
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto at Pexels