Scientists Use Fitness Trackers to Monitor COVID Long-Haulers

Scientific reports show that some people who have contracted the COVID-19 virus face a longer recovery than others

Scientists at Scripps Research in La Jolla are using technology found in personal electronic devices to track recovery from the coronavirus.

“Our study used fitness trackers to look at people who have COVID and to track their recovery times,” Scripps Research epidemiologist Jennifer Radin said.

According to Pew Research, 20% of Americans use a fitness tracking device and the data in those devices can be the key to tracking COVID symptoms.

“Smart trackers and fitness watches do a great job at characterizing each individual's unique normal, so your normal resting heart rate, your typical normal activity level and your normal sleep level, so when someone gets sick, we can detect changes to your norm,” Radin said.

The average person's heart rate is between 60-100 beats per minute, and, according to Radin, some people with COVID have an elevated heart rate.

“The key takeaways from this study on average individuals who came down with COVID took two to three months for their resting heart rate to return to their healthy baseline,” Radin said.

Julia Moore Vogel, who contracted COVID-19, is still feeling the effects of the virus one year later.

“I used to be a fairly active person," Vogel said. "I’d go out for a three-mile jog that I wouldn’t think anything of. Now I have to be very careful about managing how many steps I take per day.”

Scientists hope to gain more long-term data in future studies to compare with what people are experiencing six months or longer post-illness.

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