Without the need for the wearer to engage in physical activity, researchers from Cambridge have developed a method for accurately measuring overall fitness on wearable devices, one that is more robust than current consumer smartwatches and fitness monitors.
Testing for VO2max, a crucial indicator of cardiovascular health and mortality risk, typically necessitates high-priced laboratory equipment and is typically reserved for the most elite athletes. The new approach utilizes machine learning to estimate VO2max, the maximum rate at which the body can perform aerobic work, during normal daily activities without the use of supplemental data sources like GPS monitors.
Wearable sensors were used to collect data on the physical activity of more than 11,000 people who participated in the Fenland Study; some of these people were re-examined seven years later. The data was used to create a model that predicted VO2max, which was then checked by a third group who performed a conventional laboratory exercise test. When compared to experiments in a controlled environment, the model’s predictive performance was found to be superior to that of competing methods.
Although some fitness trackers and smartwatches on the market make claims to estimate VO2max, it is difficult to know whether or not these devices are providing an accurate reading, and whether or not a person’s exercise routine is actually increasing their VO2max over time, because the algorithms required to power these predictions are not released and are subject to modification at any time.
The model created at Cambridge is reliable, easy to understand, and makes precise predictions using only heart rate and accelerometer data. This model’s ability to track fitness improvements over time suggests it may be applicable to estimating population-wide fitness and pinpointing the impacts of lifestyle. The study’s findings were published in npj Digital Medicine.
The VO2max test is the gold standard for measuring fitness. Professional athletes, for instance, have their VO2max determined by monitoring their oxygen intake during exhaustive exercise. Heart rate reaction to exercise tests and other laboratory methods of gauging fitness require the use of exercise machinery like treadmills and stationary bicycles. In addition, extreme physical activity can pose risks for some people.