There’s no doubt that using a fitness tracker like the Fitbit is great motivation to stay active. But according to new reports, its health-boosting benefits go far beyond motivating you to run on the spot to get your step count up (come on, we’ve all done it!). Turns out, that humble device around your wrist is helping scientists cure cancer and other diseases.
It may seem like a ludicrous claim, but hear us out! For years, the Fitbit has played a pivotal role in helping doctors and scientists understand how exercise can help prevent, manage and reverse disease. Since it launched in 2012, Fitbit’s research facilitation partner, Fitabase, has collected over 3.5 billion minutes of Fitbit data on behalf of research customers at places like John Hopkins, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. These studies focus on everything from the role of exercise in increasing mental and physical health during breast cancer treatment to the value of fitness trackers for self-managing Type 2 Diabetes.
Scientists flock to the Fitbit over other fitness trackers not necessarily because it’s more accurate, but because it’s simple to operate and not burdensome to wear. For example, in a study into the impact of exercise on the brain function of breast cancer survivors, the Fitbit was the obvious choice. Due to dealing with brain fog and other cognitive declines following treatment, it was important that the study participants simply had to keep the device charged and wear it — that’s it.
From the study, scientists were able to conclude that the Fitbit encouraged the test participants to exercise more — and that the physical activity significantly improved their cognitive processing. Another study from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute looked into how getting up and walking around can help cancer patients avoid readmission after surgery. The researchers found they were able to predict who would end up back in hospital based on their daily step count.
Scientists have long understood that there’s a direct correlation between exercise, inflammation and the prevention of cancer growth. While the Fitbit isn’t likely to single-handedly cure cancer anytime soon, what it is doing is helping scientists figure out how to best harness exercise as a tool for fighting disease.