Can a FitBit Help Lower Your High Blood Pressure?

A FitBit is one of several currently available health monitor brands that are marketed as a means of improving your health. To be fair, no specific health claims are made, but improving cardiovascular health, and therefore reducing hypertension, is a unique selling proposition for this type of device. Does my FitBit live up to this claim?

They gave me a FitBit as a gift and before receiving it I had not thought about such devices. I quickly found out that even to use it, I had to upgrade my smartphone to one that uses the latest generation of operating system, as the device records and displays data in a smartphone app.

The second thing to understand about this type of fitness monitor is that it only records and displays data. What is crucial is how you use it. How it is configured also influences the results it produces. The tabloid press recently published the story of a grandmother, who had been given this type of device, who had logged tens of thousands of steps every day even though she had not gotten up from the sofa. It turned out that she was knitting clothes for her grandchildren and the device incorrectly interpreted her movements as walking!

I am right-handed and normally wear a wristwatch on my left arm. I started out wearing my FitBit on my right arm and it was set accordingly. It soon became apparent that I was also misinterpreting my arm movements and counting them as if I was walking. Wearing the device on my left arm and adjusting the settings provided much more accurate data.

The anecdotes above show that what is important is the type of exercise you do. Brisk walking or jogging for 30 to 45 minutes each day has been shown to reduce high blood pressure by up to 10% and the benefits last for about 23 hours. This is why exercising every day is an important way to reduce high blood pressure. The important thing is that your heart rate must be elevated for a period of at least 30 minutes in order to reap the benefit.

The type of health monitor I own counts the number of steps I take in a 24-hour period. It also calculates how many minutes of exercise I have done, how much I have walked, and how many calories I have consumed. The more steps you take in a given time, the more calories you burn.

All cool things, but does wearing this type of device help lower high blood pressure? The answer is that it depends on how you use it. To get the most out of it and lower your high blood pressure, you need an exercise plan and use the device to monitor your progress.

My exercise plan is simple. My goal is to take no less than 10,000 steps per day (approximately 5 miles) of which 3 miles should be taken in a concerted 45 minute brisk walking session. The rest is made up of shorter periods of exercise.

Where does my health monitor fit into my plan? I have a goal and an exercise plan. The monitor tracks my progress towards my goal and lets me know if I am on the right track or lagged behind. In short, it motivates me to achieve my goal. The app does this by using a series of motivational messages that are displayed on the device, alerting me if I have been inactive for an hour and providing me with weekly progress reports.

Can a FitBit (or similar device) really help lower high blood pressure? Yes, it can if used correctly and in conjunction with a proper exercise plan.

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