One in five Americans uses a Fitbit, Apple Watch or other wearable fitness tracker. And over the past year, several studies have suggested that the devices — which can continually collect data on heart rates, body temperature, physical activity and more — could help detect early signs of COVID-19 symptoms.
Now research suggests that these wearables can also help track patients’ recovery from the disease, providing insight into its long-term effects.
In a paper published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Network Open, researchers studying Fitbit data reported that people who tested positive for COVID-19 displayed behavioral and physiological changes, including an elevated heart rate, that could last for weeks or months. These symptoms lasted longer in people with COVID than in those with other respiratory illnesses, the scientists found.
“We want to kind of do a better job of collecting long-term symptoms so we can compare the physiological changes that we’re seeing with symptoms that participants are actually experiencing,” Radin said. “So this is really a preliminary study that opens up many other studies down the road.”
See Fitbits detect lasting changes after COVID-19
Last spring, when the nation’s COVID-19 cases were soaring and tests were in short supply, some scientists wondered whether a new approach to disease surveillance might be on Americans’ wrists.