The future of diagnosing diseases? Fitness trackers could lead the way

A recent study by Stanford University suggests that fitness trackers, such as Fitbits, can help doctors diagnose various illnesses.

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The future of diagnosing diseases? Fitness trackers could lead the way

Dr. Michael Snyder made an important discovery regarding disease diagnosis.

Dr. Michael Snyder made an important discovery regarding disease diagnosis.

Courtesy of Stanford Medicine

Dr. Michael Snyder made an important discovery regarding disease diagnosis.

Courtesy of Stanford Medicine

Courtesy of Stanford Medicine

Dr. Michael Snyder made an important discovery regarding disease diagnosis.

Skylar Smith, Sports & Fitness Editor

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Fitness trackers are an extremely popular fitness trend that many girls at Xavier and people across the world wear daily. They are great for counting steps and calories, but could they also aid in diagnosing diseases? A recent study by Stanford University says yes.

Dr. Michael Snyder, professor and chair of genetics at Stanford, and his team at university have drawn conclusions that fitness trackers and other biosensors can help doctors in healing sick patients by using the data that trackers have collected over a period of time, such as skin temperature and heart rate, which can suggest physical abnormalities in the wearer.

During the study, the team gathered almost two-billion measurements from 60 people, over 250,000 daily, in order to set “normal” ranges for different biological markers. The participants’ fitness trackers were constantly monitored by the team and submitted blood and DNA tests periodically. Snyder and his team collected data on the wearers’ calorie consumption, weight, sleep cycle, and exposure to X-rays.

Dr. Eric Topol, a genomics professor at the Scripps Research Institute, said about the study, “I was very impressed with all the data that was collected. There’s a lot here — a lot of sensors and a lot of different data on each person.”

The study found that deviations from the normal ranges of participants correlated with various medical illnesses that were responsible for the abnormalities. With the help of software designers, algorithms were created to help locate these deviations in the multitude of data, which can make diagnosis and research easier. “I think that this study is a great step toward preventing and diagnosing difficult-to-find diseases, which can save a lot of lives,” junior and aspiring biological researcher Claire Fleming said.

Snyder and his team concluded that it is definitely possible to monitor biological markers and potential deviations from the normal ranges corresponding to them with fitness trackers, likely helping doctors and clinical researchers to find and prevent diseases.

With the vast amount of Xavier girls sporting these fitness trackers, this Stanford study is very relevant to keep in mind in case of potential future illnesses. The key to diagnosing could be right on our wrists.

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