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How wearables can help support mental health and well-being

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On World Mental Health Day, Prateek Kewalramani, Head of Marketing, Fitbit – MEA, Google, discusses wearables’ role in improving mental health.

Adopting an active lifestyle is an excellent way to manage stress and encourage a sense of accomplishment, which can support mental health and well-being. Modern-day wearables offer several solutions that can help stay active while keeping track of stress levels and heart rates. In an interview with Omnia Health Insights, Prateek Kewalramani, Head of Marketing, Fitbit – MEA, Google, discusses how the personalised and actionable guidance provided by these devices can help one achieve optimum health and fitness goals.

He highlighted that Fitbit was the first to introduce an advanced health smartwatch, the Fitbit Sense, that focused on both physical and mental well-being. It brought together an innovative sensor and software technology with reportedly the world’s first electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor on a smartwatch to help manage stress, along with heart rate tracking technology, Stress Management Score, and an on-wrist skin temperature sensor.

He said: “We recently launched the Fitbit Charge 5, an advanced health and fitness tracker that also includes features like EDA technology. Also, Fitbit Premium, a paid membership in the Fitbit app, guides users to help them move more, manage stress, sleep better, and eat well. It uses data to deliver advanced insights and personalised, actionable guidance to help users achieve their health and fitness goals.”

The on-wrist EDA Scan app works by placing the palm over the face of the device to detect small electrical changes in the sweat level of the skin. Measuring EDA responses can help one understand the body’s response to stressors and help manage stress. Users can do a quick EDA Scan session on the device to see responses or pair it with guided mindfulness sessions in the app to see how the body responds during meditation or relaxation. At the end of the session, they will see an EDA response graph on-device and in the mobile app to gauge progress over time and reflect on how they feel emotionally.

“Fitbit Sense customers are using the EDA Scan app with positive results – 70 per cent of sessions result in a lower heart rate; about 3/4 of sessions result in lower heart rate, and those who achieve higher Active Zone Minutes report lower stress,” added Kewalramani.

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Prateek Kewalramani

Furthermore, Fitbit also offers the Stress Management Score on the app that calculates how the body is responding to stress based on heart rate, sleep, and activity level data. Ranging from 1-100, with a higher score indicating the body is showing fewer physical signs of stress, the score is coupled with recommendations to better manage stress, like breathing exercises and other mindfulness tools. Moreover, Fitbit Premium members get a detailed breakdown of how the score is calculated, which consists of over 10 biometric inputs, including exertion balance (impact of activity), responsiveness (heart rate, heart rate variability, and electrodermal activity from the EDA Scan app), and sleep patterns (sleep quality).

Managing stress better

When asked if wearables could act as possible mental health coaches, Kewalramani stressed that the devices are intended to help users manage their well-being and keep track of their information. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

He said: “Our goal at Fitbit is to give users more data to empower them to see changes in their fitness and well-being. Premium members can choose from more than 100 meditation sessions from popular brands like Aaptiv, Aura, Breethe, Calm, and Ten Percent Happier, listen to a variety of relaxing sounds, and see how your practice correlates with your mood over time. We took a step further by partnering with Deepak Chopra, M.D., Pioneer of Integrative Medicine, to launch Deepak Chopra’s Mindful Method, a wellness collection created and curated for members to make a mindfulness practise more accessible to people worldwide.”

Thanks to the advanced insights provided by wearables, users are able to get a better understanding of their heart health and stress. In addition, it provides insights into other key health metrics that they would have only received at the doctor’s office once or twice a year. So, they can use these insights to focus on their overall health and wellness at a time when it’s needed most.

“Wearables can help bridge the gap between visits to the doctor and facilitate conversations between patients and their providers,” Kewalramani emphasised. “Users can take a more proactive approach to their health and have informed conversations with their care teams thanks to the information that is now available on their wrists. In turn, providers and caregivers can deliver better, more personalised care, armed with actionable information about the health of their patients, further supporting them outside of the doctor’s office. We see wearables as being a complement to the healthcare system, not a replacement.”

When asked about future plans, he highlighted that Fitbit is the Official Health and Wellness Partner of the Dubai Fitness Challenge (DFC) for the third consecutive year. “We would like to call residents of Dubai to take part in DFC by dedicating 30 minutes daily to their health and well-being through exercise at home or DFC challenges and activities. Through personalised guidance, content, and insights, users can take control of their well-being and, as part of DFC, rebuild a routine that works, nurture healthier habits, and make small changes that will have longer-lasting impacts on their overall well-being,” he concluded.

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