How do fitness trackers measure blood pressure

Electronic gadgets have evolved over time and smartwatches have started becoming medical kits these days. Interestingly, the fitness trackers and the smart brands are in trend and most middle-aged men have begun to purchase them. The increasing use of fitness trackers to stay fit and healthy has made tech companies manufacture pieces of equipment with more features.

Incidentally, too many gadgets for too many things are not preferred. So, the technology companies have devised all in one by making it a fitness tracker or even a smartwatch with many features. You might have heard of the device monitoring your sleep, heart rate, oxygen levels and much more.

There are fitness trackers that also helps measure blood pressure too. Such devices have become more popular as the increase in blood pressure and the connected ailments are more among people in the current era.

Though there is always a question about the accuracy of the measurement, one must also agree that the different levels are plus or minus 1%. That means to say, the devices are pretty accurate and we can rely on the data. In this regard, the demand is for those fitness trackers that have maximum accuracy.

But with the fitness trackers measuring the steps taken, calories burned and much more, how does it measure the blood pressure of an individual? Indeed, we have seen bigger equipment for such purposes and how does this smaller watch or the fitness tracker help measure the same. Have you seen the balloon that will be constantly pressed by the nurse as they help measure the BP? Is it even available on these devices? This article shall let us understand the way fitness trackers measure blood pressure.

How Does a Fitness Tracker Measure Blood Pressure?

As you know, the fitness tracker is usually worn on the wrist. And we have seen doctors holding the wrist to measure the pulse rate? Does it function the same way? Before jumping to any conclusion, let us understand that the BP measured using the wrist is less accurate than the one that is held near the heart. But, the difference is not much and one can readily rely on both the readings.

The fitness trackers employ advanced technology in terms of sensors that help monitor various activities. The BP measurement is also done in a similar pattern. However, there are two ways of measuring BP through a fitness tracker.

The methods described below are available in smartwatches and fitness trackers these days. Look for the right method as one of those gives marginal results and is not as accurate as of the other.

Method I – oscillometric method

(Accuracy Guaranteed)

This method utilizes oscillometric. As you always wear the fitness tracker around your wrist, the arteries present in the wrist are narrow. This method is rather effective as it measures the BP through the arteries on your wrist.

Omron HeartGuide Smartwatch
Omron HeartGuide Smartwatch with an inflatable cuff [Pic Credits: CNET]
In fact, the arteries present are narrow on the wrist and not as deep as usually any medical practitioner would want. But the oscillometric method helps detect the blood pressure effectively using a fitness tracker.

Such fitness trackers use a cuff near the wrist and it inflates. As it bulges or inflates, the arteries get squeezed and the blood flow is stopped for some time and the inflation slightly reduces and allows the passage for blood to flow.

In this way, the oscillometric method measures the systolic and diastolic pressure of the blood.

The only difference in this method to that of the doctor’s approach is the absence of pump and BP monitor.

The arterial pulsations are accurately measured using the fitness tracker. As said earlier, this method is close to the conventional blood pressure measuring method and is reckoned to be more accurate in terms of results.

Example: OMRON HeartGuide, FITOLOGY BP Doctor Smart Watch


(Quick But Less Inaccurate)

The name of this method is called PPG. You would have used an Oximeter during the Pandemic. You used to use that to measure the heart rate, pulse and oxygen levels. PPG technique uses a similar method. The PPG in general uses the light absorption method.

The light that is illuminated on the skin, makes the sensor illuminate the skin too. This type of method does not require any inflatable cuff. since there is no inflatable tube, the accuracy of the result will not be that good. It is instructed to use proper guidelines to measure BP effectively. One may this as a marginal result and not as accurate as of the Method – I.

Steps to Take While measuring BP using a Fitness Tracker

Though the methods are effective in measuring the BP, one must carry out some precautions and follow the steps given below to get accurate results too.

Firstly, do not smoke or drink just before you would want to measure your BP. Also, consumption of caffeine also gives inaccurate results.

Secondly, it is expected of you to be sitting in a relaxed posture. Allow your arm to rest on the table and tie your fitness tracker around your wrist. Do not allow your wrist or your arm to be too loose or too tight too.

Lastly, use a table that is at least raises up to your heart level as you rest your arm. This might fetch you exact results.

Are Blood Pressure reading of fitness trackers Accurate?

They are accurate and no doubt in that. But, the brand and model matters the most. These pieces of equipment are touch expensive and if you feel you need to monitor BP regularly, then go for a premium one.

Also, you can calibrate the readings by approaching a doctor and taking the BP measurement using their medical equipment. This shall help you understand the difference and calibrate it accordingly.

As you use the Fitness tracker to measure BP, it can boost your confidence and keep you motivated by knowing your health condition. Also, you can alter your fitness plan accordingly. Knowing one’s heart health is important and such devices are critical when going to doctors is pretty difficult regularly.

One last suggestion on using the fitness tracker to give accurate results is to stay put as they are sensitive to movements and give sporadic readings.


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