Tracked Health

There’s a new trend going on in the mobile health world that’s definitely worth looking into – health trackers. No, I’m not talking about the grizzly-haired grandpas looking for furry creatures to make coats. I’m talking about recent increase in small portable devices that can be used to track your sleep patterns, physical activity and other data, such as the FitBit® Flex™, Nike+® FuelBand™, or JawBone® Up™ . I’m personally interested in tracking my sleep pattern, and there are several smartphone and tablet apps available that can do just that. Unfortunately, these smartphone apps are bound by the limits of the phone (and many of these apps require you to put the smartphone on your pillow while you sleep, which in my case would have it flying off the bed in the first few hours).

To my delight, a colleague introduced me to the various tracking devices now available on the market. These devices can wrap around your wrist (mimicking a watch or bracelet), attach to your clothing (to be positioned against your skin), or can just hang out in your pocket. These nifty little trackers can give you insight to all sorts of information about your daily activities – your sleep pattern, how many steps you take (pedometer), distance traveled (in steps), calories burned, stairs climbed, heart rate, skin temperature, perspiration, and more. All of this information can be tracked by a little gadget and then be loaded up into a website. And I have to say, all of the device websites that I have seen have beautiful graphs and charts to display your tracked information. You can also access your tracked data via your smartphone or tablet (most trackers have their own mobile app), so you don’t have to be at your computer to view the tracking report. In addition, many of these devices can also send your information to popular weight-loss websites, giving you credit for your exercise, hours of sleep, and healthy food choices.

No more phones flying off of pillows for me!

Jae Osenbach, Ph.D. is a research psychologist and subject matter expert with the Mobile Health Program at the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2).

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


Read other posts by Dr. Jae Osenbach