So you have received a brand-new fitness tracker to get you started tracking your workout routine and reaching your fitness goals. However, you might be thinking, are fitness trackers safe to wear?
Currently, there is no scientific evidence that fitness trackers are unsafe to wear, according to John Sweetenham, MD, a hematologist at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute. Furthermore, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention‘s experts added no scientific evidence confirming whether radiofrequency (RF) radiation from cell phones can cause health issues years later.
Fitness trackers appear to be safe to use regularly; however, like anything in life, moderation is required.
Read on to discover everything you need to know about fitness tracker safety and how you can limit your exposure.
Table of Contents
Are Fitness Trackers Safe to Wear?
Even though cell phones and fitness trackers emit radiation, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that cell phones and cordless phones use radiofrequency radiation (RF) to send signals. However, according to the CDC, RF is different from other types of radiation, such as x-rays, that we know can be harmful.
The CDC’s experts added no scientific evidence supporting whether RF radiation from cell phones can cause health problems years later. Additionally, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified RF radiation as a “possible human carcinogen.” In other words, a carcinogen is an agent that causes cancer.
The Federal Communication Commission has adopted limits for safe exposure to radiofrequency energy given in terms of a unit referred to, measuring the amount of radiofrequency energy absorbed by the body when using a mobile phone.
For instance, the Federal Communication Commission requires cell phones to emit less than 1.6 watts per kilogram of radiation. Therefore, any cell phone at or below these levels is a “safe” phone.
Do Fitness Trackers Cause Cancer?
The number of brain cancers has been pretty flat for many years. With widespread cell phone usage, there will be an increase in the number of cases if there is a link. But there isn’t, according to John Sweetenham, MD, a hematologist at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute.
Sweetenham also says, “There’s very little evidence at the moment to suggest that there’s a link between cellphone usage and any type of cancer.”
Are Fitbit Watches Safe to Wear?
A Fitbit is a type of fitness tracker used for personal activity tracking, measuring data including the number of steps walked, calories burned, quality of sleep, heart rate, and other individual metrics.
Also, Fitbit has apps for iPhone and Android, allowing users to record their food, activities, water consumption, and weight and track their fitness goals throughout the day, even while offline.
And since 2012, experts have issued 757 publications using Fitbit device data, nearly half in 2017 alone. For example, women who wore Fitbits were exercising for around 14 more minutes per day than those in the control group found a study.
Because a Fitbit is an electronic device, it will emit electric fields and magnetic fields, two EMF radiation forms. Also, most Fitbit devices have Bluetooth, a wireless feature that allows Fitbit to connect to other electronic devices, including your cell phone. EMF negatively affects the body’s natural ability to produce melatonin, which is responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. The presence and absence of light influence the production of this hormone, according to a 2012 study.
The brain’s pineal gland translates EMF radiation as a form of light, which inhibits melatonin production. Therefore, the body believes that it is daytime, which makes it difficult to fall asleep. In other words, wearing your Fitbit to bed may be the source of your many sleepless nights.
By wearing a Fitbit, you are exposing yourself to radiation daily. However, you can use the following tips to limit your exposure:
- If you want to wear Fitbit safely, make sure to use it if needed. For instance, if you don’t want to track your sleep patterns, avoid wearing a FitBit while sleeping.
- Limit your use of fitness trackers, including Fitbit. Even though there are no apparent symptoms of an allergic reaction, avoid constant radiation exposure, especially if you are sensitive to radiation.
- Wearing a Fitbit may be safe if you avoid prolonged exposure and keep this device away from your sensitive areas.
Should You Worry Too Much About Wearing A Fitness Tracker?
We all want to be as healthy as possible, and being aware of the risks before consuming anything or putting anything on or in our bodies is responsible. Most medical experts agree that wearable devices are almost certainly benign.
John Sweetenham, MD, a hematologist at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute, says, “I think right now there’s really no evidence that would support that there’s a problem there,”
What Are The Benefits Of Fitness Trackers?
For most people wearing a fitness tracker is the first step to adopting a healthy and active lifestyle. If you can track your activity level, you will feel motivated to stay more active and improve your health.
Fitness trackers are excellent for keeping you motivated to reach your health and fitness goals. They record your activity while the apps interpret the results and send you frequent messages to let you know how well you are improving.
They will gently push you to work toward your goal, encourage you along the way, and praise you when you get there. Moreover, fitness Trackers may increase physical activity and promote weight loss, according to a 2016 study.
Some fitness trackers help record your heart rate, which is essential for determining the intensity of your workout, according to Harvard experts.
How to Limit Your Exposure to Fitness Trackers’ Risk and Radiation?
Nowadays, it is almost impossible to live free of radiation. And according to the CDC experts, research is required to conclude cell phone usage’s health effects. Therefore, there is no conclusive answer to whether fitness trackers and cell phones cause health problems.
However, the lack of scientific evidence that fitness trackers are unsafe is not evidence of safety. You have to limit exposure to fitness trackers. The non-ionizing waves emitted by fitness trackers are comparable to those of cell phones, categorized as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization International.
Contrary to cell phones, activity trackers are made to be worn on the body around the clock. People often wear them clipped at the hip or waist (near internal organs) or around the wrist.
9 Tips To Safely Use Fitness Trackers
While telecom technology changes from 4G to 5G, the number of connected wearable devices worldwide is anticipated to grow to over 1.1 billion in 2022. If you are using a fitness tracker, you may also be sharing your location with a third party, and it might create a safety issue for you.
However, there are a few steps that you can take to make your fitness tracking safer if you are still hesitant to join the global fitness tracker movement.
1- Reduce Your Exposure While Sleeping
Many people enjoy using fitness trackers to track their sleep. Take your fitness tracker off while sleeping to help you reduce your exposure to radiation without missing anything important that you want to be tracked during the day.
When you are sleeping, take your fitness tracker off your wrist because placing your hand near your head may expose your brain to low-frequency waves, according to experts.
Also, it is possible that your fitness tracker gives you a sleep disorder. There is an increase in the number of people concerned with their sleep quality and duration after using tracking devices to log their sleep.
It creates anxiety about getting proper sleep, which in turn, leads to further sleeplessness, also called “orthosomnia,” according to a study issued by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
The study also advised that the science is not there yet to support most of these tracking devices’ ability to improve and measure sleep quality and duration.
2- Be Mindful of Where You Wear Your Fitness Tracker
Even though a fitness tracker’s radiation level is minimal, try to be mindful of where you wear your fitness tracker.
Avoid wearing it close to your vital organs, such as the heart and genital areas.
For example, armbands, anklets, wristbands, and rings are great options for reducing radiation exposure. The belt clips or chest straps may not be a great option if you are concerned about radiation near your organs.
3- Reduce Your Usage of Wearable Devices
Wearable technology, including fitness trackers, typically uses low-powered radiofrequency (RF) transmitters to send and receive data from your smartphones or the Internet. RF transmitters emit radio waves, a type of non-ionizing radiation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For instance, cell phones emit radiofrequency radiation (radio waves), a kind of non-ionizing radiation, from their antennas. Therefore, the parts of the body nearest to the antenna can absorb this energy, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Since most wearable devices with Bluetooth emit radiation, it would be wise to reduce your usage of wearable devices. Here are a few ways to minimize radiation with other wearables:
- Whenever possible, set your tablet on a table instead of on your lap
- Use the speakerphone on your cell phone.
4- Reduce The Length of Time of Using the Fitness Tracker
If you are concerned about exposure, try to use your fitness tracker only during your workout times.
If you use any radiation-emitting device, the more distance you keep from delicate areas and the less time you spend exposed, the safer you will be.
5- Limit Your Location Sharing
According to NASA, location data can be extremely important and must be protected. An investigation published in the New York Times showed how, by using only a fraction of location data collected from a location data company mining that information from various apps, wearables makers could track and identify individuals from military officials to Hollywood stars.
First, your fitness trackers track your every move, every second, and everywhere. And it presents collected data in a nice map to help you analyze your outdoor activities such as running, cycling, camping, or hiking.
Sure, fitness trackers’ makers might claim that your location data is anonymized and secure with no identifiable information; however, the New York Times investigation showed how they could pinpoint a single user’s data and track that person’s routine.
6- Limit The Data That Is Being Collected
Most of the time, apps and wearables collect far more data than is necessary. If possible, try to limit the data that is being collected and let your fitness tracker collect and store only the data needed to give you the feedback you want.
For instance, if you would like to count your steps and heart rate you have no real interest in monitoring sleeping habits, then turn the sleep tracker off.
7- Communication With Phone
Bluetooth connection may impact the amount of radiation emitted on your fitness tracker. You might want to reduce the Bluetooth connection to your fitness tracker or buy a tracker that has no Bluetooth.
Many people see Bluetooth connection as a plus, but this is the primary source of radiation as far as radiation goes.
8- Read the user agreement
Ensure you read your fitness tracker’s manuals to learn more about your wearable, its company, the data they are collecting, and how long it is stored and used.
You can get all the information you need by reading the wall of text in the user agreement you have to consent to before using a service. Before agreeing or disagreeing, decide if it is worth trading your data.
By reading the user agreement, you will find information such as:
- How much data does the company collect from your wearable?
- What can the fitness trackers’ makers do with that data?
- How long can it keep the information?
- And can you get the information collected back?
And then decide whether the information and advice you get back are worth trading the security of your data for the service. You get to make a choice; however, make it an informed decision.
9- Set Up Two-Factor Authentication
One of the best ways to secure your accounts, including your fitness tracker apps, is by setting up two-factor authentication or 2FA. After setting up two-factor authentication, the system generates a code and sends it to a trusted device (such as your phone), and you enter the code to confirm your identity.
The Cheapest And The Most Effective Fitness Tracker on The Market
Breathing Heavy: Try to use your breathing to monitor if you are working at the right intensity. Since your muscles need more oxygen, your heart pushes more blood into them. As your muscles work harder, they produce more carbon dioxide. The increased blood movement carries a high carbon dioxide to your lungs, which triggers heavier breathing.
Time exercising: A simple watch will give you how much time you spend workout, running, and walking. Remember, if you are not sweating and breathing heavily, you are not exercising hard enough.
How do you feel: Are you breathing heavily? Sweating? Is your heart pounding? All these are indications of a productive workout.
Always remember that the cheapest and the most effective fitness tracker on the market is you.
Use Fitbit And Other Fitness Trackers as a Tool to Improve And Not Punish Yourself
People using fitness trackers try to beat their bodies to improve their physique and overall health.
Fitness trackers, including Fitbit, are safe to use as long as you are using them as intended. If you become obsessed with exercising, losing weight, counting calories, or writing down your daily activity, this device will not serve the purpose of reaching your health and fitness goals.
Some people wearing fitness trackers end up following some unhealthy regime. As a result, they experience addiction to exercising, eating disorders, and other minor injuries.
Overall, there is no scientific evidence that fitness trackers are unsafe to wear. If you are still concerned about radiation exposure, there are many options to minimize your fitness tracker’s amount of radiation.
In general, I would recommend being vigilant when choosing anything that goes on in your body, especially if it exposes you to dangerous radiation.
For tighter control over the data collected, there are a few steps you can take.
- Manually stop location tracking by apps: The most crucial step is to disable location sharing for apps already on your phone (No need to worry; your phone will automatically send its location to emergency responders in case you call 911)
- Disable mobile ad ID: Remember that your online activity is often tied together and tracked using your mobile advertising ID, a unique number created by your phone and sent to advertisers and app makers.
- Switch off location sharing in your Google account by setting two-factor authentication on your accounts.
- Do not use a fitness tracker to monitor your health mainly: To monitor your health, always discuss it with a physician. A fitness tracker does not replace a physical check-up; you discuss the results with your doctor or ask for a test to double-check.
- Turn off the Bluetooth; if you are wearing a fitness tracker, you can later synchronize the health data to your cell phone and do it once a day.
- Get a wrist-worn fitness tracker only, and avoid clip-on trackers around your waist.
- Above all, use your fitness tracker responsibly, consider it an add-on to adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and reach your fitness goals without the device becoming a hindrance in your life.