Since early in 2013, when Fitbit introduced their wearable activity tracker, the market for activity trackers has exploded. A few years ago, statistics recorded that nearly 50% of all Americans have purchased fitness trackers of some sort. The trackers range from devices such as Fitbit, to the Apple watch to apps people can download on their phones to help track their activity and sleep.
Recently, a number of studies are collecting data using fitness trackers that may assist in finding a cancer cure.
As a personal trainer, I have encouraged clients to make use of them. It is a great way to track steps, exercise, food and sleep. I have found that it can be encouraging and challenging for people to try to increase the amount of steps they are taking. It is also a great tool when they share their data with me. It can help to keep them accountable and on track.
Fitness Trackers as Cancer Research Aide
Currently, there are over 400 studies using Fitbit as a tool to measure variables that may help devise better treatment and perhaps even cures for cancer. The data collected is being used in many ways to help researchers understand how exercise can prevent, manage and reverse disease. One of the benefits of studies using fitness trackers is the ease of compliance and data collection; the only thing a participant has to do is keep the device charged and wear it!
One of the studies being done is at the University of California San Diego. They are testing whether breast cancer patients who have metastatic tumors in the brain have improved cognitive functioning if they are more active. The fitness trackers help provide the data.
The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute has studied how many steps survivors take and have been able to successfully predict who will end up back in the hospital based on their step count.
Fitness Tracker Use During Treatment and Recovery
Using a fitness tracker during treatment can be a really helpful way to give your doctor information about how you are really doing. I am an avid walker and prior to my cancer diagnosis, I walked about 15,000 steps daily. After my hysterectomy, I was able to track my progress in steps as I recovered from my surgery. When I started radiation, I was walking regularly but had not returned to the 15,000 steps I was doing prior to surgery. As my body dealt with the side effects of the radiation, my ability to walk began to decrease. I was a person who would present well at a doctor appointment. I would report to my oncologist what side effects I was dealing with, but I tended to minimize how poorly I was really doing. At the time, I never thought to share my Fitbit data with him, but it would have helped him understand that I was not doing well in a way that my words were not conveying.
As we are on the road to recovery, it can be really encouraging to see how we improve. From one day to the next and one week to the next, seeing how many steps we are able to take can really give a boost to our recovery!
In the future, it will be really interesting to “track” how fitness trackers continue to aid in diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Photo by Andres Urena on Unsplash