Is your smartwatch fit to use?

Written by Paul Morris
Founder and CEO, Addmaster (UK) Ltd.

Are you staying active during lockdown?  

Like most of you, I’ve been isolating at home for over a month now and have more time to keep fit and more time to get a sweat on.

Now that I don’t have the convenience of a gym I’m using my smartwatch to stay active and shake up my workouts.

But it’s got me thinking. Is my device harbouring bacteria from my last workout? I don’t know about you, but the last time I cleaned my smartwatch was, well...never, despite the fact that I use it on a daily basis.

Physical exercise is so important to us all. But it’s hard to know how to keep your sports equipment and wearables clean. Wearable technology such as the Apple Watch or Fitbit is quickly becoming the latest must-have. From monitoring how many calories we burn, to providing instant access to our messages and emails, these devices are used by people of all ages and are designed to enhance our everyday lives.

Wearable technology

I’ve found my wearable smartwatch particularly useful to track my daily workouts and activity levels. But with 30% of the UK population now owning some form of smartwatch, I can’t help but question the cleanliness of this wearable technology.

As I’m sure you are aware, hygiene is now more important than ever. Amidst a global pandemic, everyone is doing all they can to keep clean; whether it’s washing their hands more regularly, wearing gloves to the supermarket or wearing a mask out in public. But what if your wearable device could be a threat to your health?

After finishing my daily Les Mills workout yesterday morning, it dawned on me that these devices may be more harmful than we think. I wear my smartwatch during everyday tasks, during my home workouts, when I’m out running and sometimes even when I’m sleeping. For most people, the potential for bacteria to contaminate their watch would not be a consideration. Unfortunately, the warm, moist conditions under the strap of a smartwatch provide the ideal environment for bacteria to survive, especially after working up a sweat whilst exercising. If you’ve ever smelt an unpleasant odour on the underside of your watch, this will be why.

Time to come clean?

A recent study conducted by The Telegraph found that people who wore a watch had far higher levels of bacteria on their wrists than those who did not.

One of the women in the study had levels of bacteria that was an incredible 300 times higher than average! Bacteria can cause skin infections and food poisoning-like symptoms, as well as making it increasingly difficult to maintain hand hygiene.

The devices tested included the Apple Watch, Fitbit’s Versa smartwatch and Charge.

I’m not suggesting that we give up exercising or using wearable technology in our daily lives, but I do think it’s time we have more consideration to the issue of hygiene in the smartwatch space.

So, how can you avoid your smartwatch becoming a breeding ground for bacteria?

In an ideal world, smartwatches would be antibacterial, which would help to combat the presence of harmful bacteria on the surface of the strap and reduce the health risk of wearing such devices.

In the meantime, I would recommend regularly cleaning your smartwatch using antibacterial wipes or an antibacterial soap, particularly after using it whilst exercising. It is also important to dry your device thoroughly before wearing it or storing it away, as damp environments can encourage bacteria growth.

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