According to a group of researchers, fitness trackers can be helpful in extimating the exercise capacity and determining the health status of patients, as opposed to the clichéd sixminute walk distance test doctors opt for.
The researchers said that the test results were another example of how wearable and monitording devices were used by patients to improve their health.
"For patients, this means we can track their progress more frequently in a manner that's less expensive and more convenient than current standardised testing," said Denitza Blagev, MD, lead investigator of the study and pulmonary and critical care physician at Intermountain Healthcare.
The six-minute walk distance (6WMD) is an important, objective standard used to assess exercise capacity. Patients walk for six minutes and, then based on how many meters they cover in that time, physicians can predict outcomes and mortality for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular diseases.
"Normally, the 6WMD test is done every few months or once a year. Now, we may be able to measure patients regularly and know if we need to intervene if their estimated 6WMD by step count changes," said Dr Blagev.
Fir the study reaeachers conduced a 12 week bluned randomized trial with 52 patients, a group that included adults with a history of respiratory problems. Researchers found they could effectively estimate a patient's 6MWD results by using step counters, instead of having patients come in a clinical setting to do the 6MWD test.
"Instead of having one measurement every few months, you could have weekly measurements, and have information at disease progression at more frequent intervals. This is a significant improvement and enhanced convenience for our patients," said Dr Blagev.
The implications? Using wrist step counters will allow physicians to track how their patients are doing, the progression of the disease, and whether a patient requires immediate intervention.
"Being able to distil step counts into this clinically important metric is a first step in being able to think about how to use step counters to better manage health and detect deterioration earlier," Dr Blagev added.