They are the latest health and fitness centers ‘revolution’, beloved of those fad dieters and the palates obsessive’s — not to mention some of our leading politicians.
But what use are health programs like Jawbone and Fit bit that track heart rate our activity levels and even sleep patterns? None at all, according to one GP — and they might wind up doing harm.
Writing in the BMJ, Glasgow GP and health commentator Dr Des Spence warns that the goods, which increasingly include wearable devices that connect to smart phones and computers, supplying 24-hour health monitoring, are “untested and unscientific” and may ignite “extreme anxiety” at a new generation of the “worried well”.
Warning that such apps could shortly be “omnipresent”, Dr Spence said that devices that could offer perpetual health monitoring risked giving rise to ‘over-diagnosis’ of health issues, with people unable to distinguish harmless version or faulty readings from genuine signs of ill health.
“The truth is that these programs and devices are untested and unscientific, and they’ll open the doorway of uncertainty,” he writes. “Make no mistake: diagnostic uncertainty ignites extreme stress in individuals. We must reflect on what we might lose here, instead of what we might profit.”
Thousands of health programs are available and a few are endorsed by the NHS.
It’s uncertain if the apparatus played an important part in the Chancellor of the Exchequer weight loss, but he did confirm that former Education Secretary Michael Gove likewise used a single.
George Osborne sporting the Jawbone wristband
Despite their rising popularity, there is not any evidence that health cans improve, though two randomized trials of weight loss programs for old-style ‘handheld PC’ apparatus did show they worked better than web-based or newspaper physical fitness programs.
Not all doctors are convinced health apps are a cause for concern. Also writing in the BMJ, Iltifat Husain, assistant professor of emergency medicine in the Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina said that apps which encouraged a better diet and exercise may take benefits.
He said that while evaluations of Jawbone and Fit bit apparatus had not found evidence they workout compliance or could enhance health outcomes, there was also no evidence.
“Healthy people may well benefit from using some wellness apps…but doctors will need to be proactive about telling people which metrics matter and those apps they should purchase,” he writes.