How Fitbit Health Metrics can help you listen to your body

Part 1: Healthcheck for 2021 with Fitbit
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One of the big new innovations in the Fitbit app is the Health Metrics dashboard, which is the home for all your key data – many of which are new for Fitbit users.

Health Metrics is a Fitbit Premium feature, but one that delivers a raft of health benefits.

Fitbit Premium is the company’s subscription service, which is designed to supplement the normal Fitbit health metrics for people who want even more data, such as deeper sleep tracking, personalized feedback and mindfulness content.

Health Metrics offers 7-day and 30-day tracking of all-new metrics for Fitbit, including heart rate variability, breathing rate, oxygen saturation (SpO2), and skin temperature variation.

Here’s everything you need to know about Fitbit Health Metrics.

What is Health Metrics?

The Health Metrics dashboard is a new collection of health stats for Fitbit Premium users.

You might be familiar with some of the data already, but some are exclusive to Health Metrics and aren’t available elsewhere.

Health Metrics collates as much raw data from your Fitbit as possible, which can provide insights into what’s going on under-the-hood of your body.

And it can help guide you to understand when you’re tired, or even getting sick.

Can a Fitbit device really detect illness?

How Fitbit Health Metrics can help you listen to your body

Fitbit has been at the forefront of a study to look into whether the effects of COVID 19 can be spotted before the onset of symptoms – and it’s proven that data from Health Metrics can point to the onset of illness, before symptoms show.

It launched a 187,000 strong study of people wearing Fitbit devices, which tracked over 2,000 infections.

The results of the study, published by npj Digital Medicine publication, shows that breathing rate, resting heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV) can signal impact from the disease, before more noticeable symptoms appear.

Why are these metrics important?

The data points found in the Health Metrics dashboard can be key in helping you to understanding both your long- and short-term wellness.

Skin temperature and resting heart rate can inform you of what’s going on right now – and can point to the onset of fever, a heavy night out, or general fatigue

But these metrics are also crucial in understanding long term health trends, such as improving/declining fitness or the effects of stress or lifestyle factors.

What’s more, Health Metrics data works together as one and could show the signs of illness such as COVID 19 before you even get sick.

Early findings from Fitbit's COVID-19 study have found that breathing rate and heart rate variability can be affected 1-2 days before the on-set of symptoms.

Breathing Rate

Found on: Fitbit Charge 4, Fitbit Versa 3, Fitbit Sense

How Fitbit Health Metrics can help you listen to your body

Using the SpO2 sensor in many of the latest Fitbit devices, breathing rate can be an important factor in assessing your wellbeing.

Generally, breathing rate won’t change too much, so an increase can be telling. If you see breathing rate increase, it’s your body telling you it needs more oxygen.

Increased breathing rate can be due to anything from stress and fatigue to respiratory infection – so it’s something worth keeping an eye on.

It can be a sign to think about taking some rest, or perhaps some meditation or breathing exercises as studies have shown long term mindfulness can lower breathing rates.

And as increased breathing rate is linked to flu and COVID symptoms, it could be a sign to take action.

Heart rate variability

Found on: Fitbit Charge 4, Fitbit Versa 3, Fitbit Sense, Fitbit Inspire 2

How Fitbit Health Metrics can help you listen to your body

Measuring the time between heartbeats might sound like the stuff of science fiction, but your heart rate isn’t as regular as you might think.

Seeing a good variation between heart beats is a good thing, and all sorts of factors can get in the way.

Age is a big factor, but fatigue, tiredness, alcohol, too much exercise and illness are others.

A sudden dip in HRV can tell you a lot about your body, perhaps that you need to rest, get an early night, or be mindful that you could be getting ill and adjust your lifestyle accordingly.

If you notice a sharp decline in HRV day after day, you should pay close attention as it could indicate you are experiencing stress, fatigue, overtraining or the potential onset of an illness.

Oxygen saturation

Found on: Fitbit Charge 4, Fitbit Versa family, Fitbit Sense, Ionic

How Fitbit Health Metrics can help you listen to your body

Available on watches with an SpO2 sensor, this reading shows the level of oxygen in your blood as a percentage.

Dips in blood oxygen can be linked to altitude, caffeine intake or respiratory issues – so if you see a low reading, it’s worth noting how these factors could connect to your Health Metrics data.

Blood oxygen is recorded at night, and levels can be different to what you see during the day, because our breathing rate is lower.

Values are usually between 90-100% at night, but lower figures can show something else is up.

Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea can affect the amount of oxygen in your blood at night, so if you see low levels it may be time to have a chat with your doctor.

Skin temperature

Found on: Fitbit SenseHow Fitbit Health Metrics can help you listen to your body

The Fitbit Sense is the only Fitbit device to have a skin temperature sensor built in, and while you’ll get this data on your dashboard, it will appear tracked in your Health Metrics screen too.

Fitbit works out your skin temperature over a few days, and then takes an average as a baseline.

The nightly reading you’ll see in Health Metrics shows how much your skin temperature has deviated from that baseline. Fluctuations are normal, and factors such as circadian rhythm and menstrual cycle can creates changes, but more extreme deviations, marked in yellow, can be an early indicator of illness or fever.

If you see a large fluctuation, it may be worth checking your core temperature.

Resting heart rate

Found on: Fitbit Charge 4, Fitbit Versa 3, Fitbit Sense, Fitbit Inspire 2

How Fitbit Health Metrics can help you listen to your body

This has been a fixture of Fitbit for years, and now makes up the final screen in the Health Metrics list.

Resting heart rate is a super-important metric that’s not only a signal of your overall fitness – but also wellness.

As you become fitter your resting heart rate will decrease slowly over time, and you can see this in the Health Metrics dashboard. Athletes often have a resting HR close to 40bpm, but most of us are in the 50-90bpm range.

But sudden spikes in resting heart rate can again be a sign of illness, overtraining, fatigue or stress. If you see a significant jump, can be an indication that you are not active enough, you are overtraining, too stressed, sleep deprived, dehydrated or experiencing the potential onset of an illness.


How we test

James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

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