Is Your Wearable Fitness Technology Posing Health Risks

Many individuals are deeply attached to their wearable fitness devices because of the constant stream of valuable information these devices provide them with.  However, these devices pose the same health risks that cellphones pose when constantly carried on the body–an exposure to radio waves.  But is the risk significant enough that one should never use these devices at all?


Most wearable fitness devices work by connecting with the internet wirelessly.  This means that wireless technology is directly in contact with the body, increasing its exposure to radio waves.  Fortunately, many popular wearable fitness devices actually use Bluetooth technology, which uses considerably lower levels of radiofrequency than other wireless technology devices.  Where smartphones and laptops must pass strict FCC regulations regarding their Specific Absorption Rates, or SAR, some wearable fitness devices using Bluetooth technology have such low power output that they don’t need to be tested.  However, not all wearable fitness devices use this technology, and health professionals are understandably concerned.

Joel Moskowitz, Ph.D. and director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the UC Berkeley Prevention Research Center School of Public Health, indicates that wireless technology is actually quite similar to cellphone radiation.  It is dangerous to put these devices near your head or reproductive organs for an extended period of time.  High SAR ratings are alarming, but Moskowitz is even wary of those devices with lower SAR ratings because of the standard presented by SAR ratings themselves.  They were initially introduced to protect individuals against the acute effects caused by microwave radiation, but do not actually take into account chronic exposure at lower intensities.  And while there is some information that indicates that long-term exposure to radiofrequency radiation does not apparently increase an individual’s risk of developing brain tumors, there are some health professionals who assert the fact that since radiofrequency radiation is potentially harmful to human health, precautionary measures should be taken.

Hugh Taylor, MD and chairman of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale School of Medicine has indicated that even though wearable fitness devices have been demonstrated to emit lower energy levels than smartphones, this does not necessarily mean that they are entirely safe for constant use.  Pregnant women in particular should not have wearables close to their belly, and any individual who chooses to use wearables should try to limit their use as much as possible.

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