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Activity monitoring devices could become instrumental in cardiac rehabilitation

8 March 2016
New research from Sydney Nursing School and Charles Perkins Centre
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Fitbit device helps monitor physical activity levels of cardiac patients.

Cardiovascular researchers from the University of Sydney have found that Fitbit, the popular physical activity monitoring device, is a valid and reliable way of monitoring physical activity for cardiac patients.

Published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, the study found that Fitbit-Flex accurately identified whether patients met physical activity guideline recommendations, such as number of steps per day.

“The use of devices such as Fitbit offers valuable data for clinicians and researchers working in cardiac rehabilitation programs to monitor, evaluate and encourage their patient’s physical activity levels,” said senior author Professor Robyn Gallagher, from the University’s Charles Perkins Centre and Sydney Nursing School.

“Physical activity is a major component in a cardiac rehabilitation program and is key to a patient’s recovery from coronary heart disease (CHD).

“A substantial body of evidence shows that an increase in physical activity levels results in significant improvements in many well-known CHD risk factors including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insulin resistance and psychological health.

“Physical activity appears to prevent heart disease from progressing so is the cornerstone of prevention of further cardiac events,” she said.

Whilst Fitbit-Flex is one of the most popular wearable devices currently available to measure physical activity, very little research has been conducted on its accuracy.

To ascertain the reliability of Fitbit devices and evaluate their effectiveness for monitoring the physical activity of cardiac patients, the researchers evaluated 48 patients and family members participating in community-based exercise programs. The 48 participants wore the device over four days to monitor daily step counts and minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA).

Lead author Muaddi Alharbi, undertaking this work for his PhD, said that these devices are more accurate and useful than standard pedometers because they detect different types of activity and can transmit information real-time to patients and staff.

“Fitbit provides a good patient-doctor partnership and helps doctors and clinicians to work with patients more effectively, leading to better treatments and outcomes,” he said.

“Activity tracking offers researchers and clinicians the potential to influence physical activity behaviour change in their patients in order to maximise their recovery.”

The study was conducted by University of Sydney researchers Professor Robyn Gallagher, Muaddi Alharbi, Professor Adrian Bauman and Dr Lis Neubeck.

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