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Walking More With Fitbit Can Benefit Heart Failure Patients: Study

Fitbit wearables show potential in improving health status of heart failure patients

Heart failure patients can step their way back to health by walking more, according to a new study.

Scientists say that wearing a step counter can be “clinically significant” – and could also inform future trials and medical care.

Heart failure patients were ranked using a zero to 100 scale regarding their physical limitations, how often they experience symptoms, their quality of life and how far their social lives were limited.

A higher score indicated better health. Each participant was handed a Fitbit watch-like health tracker for 12 weeks.

The American research team discovered exercise became easier when participants walked more, and they experiences fewer symptoms.

After 12 weeks of wearing a Fitbit, the entire study group walked more and their physical limitation score improved by four points. At week two the mean score had been 55.7 out of 100.

In the same time period, the group’s average symptom frequency score saw a 2.5-point boost.

Scientists say that wearing a step counter can be “clinically significant” – and could also inform future trials and medical care. PHOTO BY KETUT SUBIYANTO/PEXELS 

People suffering from more frequent symptoms averaged 2,473 steps a day, with a total symptom score count of zero to 24.

Among the 425 participants, those who scored between 75 and 100 averaged 5,351 steps a day.

Study first author Dr. Jessica Golbus, of the University of Michigan, said: “Given the increasing availability of wearable technology to monitor physical activity, there is a pressing need to understand the clinical significance of changes in activity.

“Increased step counts were significantly associated with improvements in health status, suggesting that increases in step count over time as assessed by a wearable device may be clinically meaningful.”

“What does this mean at the end of the day? If providers see improvements in step counts, then that is a good thing and reflects that patients’ health status is likely improving.

“However, seeing a decrease in step counts does not necessarily mean the converse and would not necessarily require intervention. It might mean following up with a patient though.”

Regardless of how their disease presented, people climbed an average of 2.7 floors a day.

By far the greatest difference was found among those who adjusted their scores between 1,000 and 5,000 steps a day – walking more had little difference once 5,000 a day was reached.

People who walked 2,000 steps a day scored 3.11 points higher on total symptom scores than those who managed 1,000.

Heart failure patients clocking 3,000 daily steps scored 2.89 points higher in the same area.

However, Dr. Mitchell Psotka, from Inova Schar Heart and Vascular Institute in Falls Church, Virginia, said actigraphy – quantifying physical movement using steps – is a promising but not completely established tool for clinical and research purposes.

He said: “These data are part of a large body of necessary and incremental work that will be required for actigraphy to attempt to achieve its potential as a patient-centered and efficient measure of functional status.

“The authors have thankfully moved our understanding of actigraphy forward, though it is still the new kid on the block and will require substantial further testing and validation prior to widespread reliable clinical and research use.”

The researchers acknowledged the study was limited sd commercially available devices, such as Fitbit, which may not be optimal for monitoring the functional performance of patients with chronic disease.

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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