Modern smartwatches and fitness trackers include a variety of sensors to measure a variety of metrics important in assessing your overall health and fitness. One of the common metrics measured is SpO2, which has become a must for smartwatches and fitness trackers. But what does an SpO2 measurement mean, and why should you care?
What is SpO2?
SpO2 is a measure of the oxygen saturation level in your blood. It measures the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream carried by red blood cells. The actual measurement of SpO2 is the ratio of oxygen-saturated hemoglobin to the total hemoglobin in your blood, expressed as a percentage.
Generally, the higher the SpO2, the better. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 95% to 100% is a standard SpO2 level for most healthy individuals. Of course, exceptions exist depending on specific situations.
Typically, SpO2 is measured by a specialized device known as a pulse oximeter, but you can now find similar functionality on many smartwatches and fitness trackers. The important thing to remember is that although smartwatches and fitness trackers can also measure the SpO2 level in your blood, they are less accurate than a dedicated pulse oximeter, which is FDA approved.
Don’t buy a fitness tracker or smartwatch for medical SpO2 monitoring unless it’s FDA-cleared; These tools should be used for informational and general welfare purposes only. However, even FDA-cleared pulse oximeters are not 100% accurate.
There is always a degree of error involved, so consider these measurements only as approximations. Also, many factors can affect SpO2 readings with Apple Watch, other wearable devices, or medical pulse oximeters. These factors include skin pigmentation, the thickness of your skin, skin temperature, and nail polish use.
Why is SpO2 measurement important?
Your body needs a certain amount of oxygen in the blood to function normally. According to the Cleveland Clinic, less than ideal levels of saturation (a condition known as hypoxemia) can indicate health problems that can affect your brain and heart. Additionally, it is an indicator that your communication system is not working as expected.
Hypoxemia can cause low oxygen levels in the body’s tissues (also known as hypoxia), which can result in a rapid heart rate, anxiety, clotting difficulties, and other symptoms. Typically, health professionals use SpO2 measurements to monitor overall health if you have a condition that affects your blood oxygen levels, such as asthma or pneumonia.
If you don’t fall into this category, the SpO2 measurement may not matter as much. In that case, you should thoroughly consider the other pros and cons of a fitness tracker or smartwatch to see if they’ll suit you.
It’s Time to Get More Involved in Your Health
Smartwatches and fitness trackers can measure a variety of metrics to help estimate your body’s overall health and fitness. Although measurement accuracy is an industry-wide issue, don’t let that stop you from hopping on the trend.
You can check whether a smartwatch is certified to measure a given metric by visiting the manufacturer’s website. Then, use your device’s SpO2 measurement features to help you better understand your overall health and fitness.
Fitness trackers are a great place to start when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Most of these devices present us with a healthy dose of fitness information and insight.
However, all these metrics may not be equally important. And with so many data points available, it can be hard to know which ones will really help you improve your health. These are the key health data points you should be monitoring so you get the most out of your fitness tracker.
1. Heart Rate
Your heart rate (HR), or pulse, is an important metric that indicates the number of times your heart beats per minute (bpm). A good fitness tracker should alert you if your heart rate goes above or below a certain threshold.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), for adults, a resting heart rate (RHR) of 60–100 beats per minute is generally considered normal. The AHA advises that it’s also important not to exceed the recommended maximum heart rate, as this can lead to unnecessary exertion and heart conditions down the line.
You should actively monitor your pulse during high-intensity training or workouts—it tells you whether you should be pushing yourself harder or slowing down. This can help you manage your workout routine and energy levels in a better way.