The Smart Way to Use Smartwatches

| Posted On Apr 25, 2018 | By:

smartwatch health appSmartwatches have definitely become one of those “must-have” items of late and are very popular gifts. If you either just got a smartwatch as a gift, bought one, or are thinking of getting one for yourself, very common questions you may have are: “But now what?” “What can it do and what can’t it do?” and “With all the choices which one should I choose?”

First, a smartwatch is a wearable extension of your smartphone that can alert you to phone calls, receive texts and emails, play music and provide information that is of interest to you. Using blue tooth and wireless systems, the smartwatch communicates with your smartphone. Because you physically wear a smartwatch, it’s an excellent way to measure your body’s activity and then convey that information to your smartphone. Your smartphone has the apps (applications) that translate this information in ways that can help you.

Health-related apps are plentiful, and they take that physical “data” and translate it into useful measures for you to review. In different smartwatches there are sensors such as thermometers, accelerometers, pedometers, and heart rate monitors/pulse monitors, to name a few. These features measure:

With all of that information, some people seem to assume that simply using a smartwatch with a few health apps will automatically lead to better health. Wish it were so, but it’s not that easy! Instead, it’s important to remember that a smartwatch is simply a tool, one that gives you information and feedback, but it is up to you to do something with it. You will therefore be most successful when you set a personal health goal and use the smartwatch to track those changes to your behavior and lifestyle.

For example, if your smartwatch tells you that you are taking about 7,000 steps per day, ask yourself: how can I get to 8,000? Then, adding an additional walk to your day and tracking steps on your smartwatch, you can identify how the changes in your routine helped you achieve that 8,000-step per day goal. (And after that, maybe it’s on to 9,000 steps!)

A recent analysis of many studies actually supported this: it correlated the wearing of a personal device (and many different ones were used) with clinical outcomes. It revealed that wearing a smartwatch or device alone wasn’t correlated with any significant difference for weight loss, BMI, waist size and blood pressure unless active goal setting and behavior modification were also employed.

With all that in mind, think about what health and wellness changes you want to make and focus on finding the right app to support your goals. The good news is that there are new apps coming out all the time, but obviously the downside can be in identifying which will work best for you. Here are a few great – and free! – apps recommended on cNET to get you started:

A few final thoughts and tips before you dive in:

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About George Barnard, PT

George Barnard joined Atrius Health in 2016 and currently sees patients for physical therapy at the Harvard Vanguard Post Office Square practice in Boston. George earned his physical therapy degree from Boston University and has worked as a physical therapist in Massachusetts and New Hampshire for the past 28 years. In addition to his PT work, George also provides consulting support to a technology company developing wearable sensors for total joint replacement patients. The associated app will monitor steps taken, cadence and range of motion remotely, allowing patients to return to their homes quicker and reducing the number of PT visits required to achieve a good outcome. Additionally, George is a long-time club soccer player, coach and more recently a referee for kids ages 10 to 19 years.