Behavior / Health

Fitbit Facts for Football Fans

I hear from many friends and patients that Fitbit is very motivating at an individual level for tracking activity patterns and setting new fitness goals. But the research staff at Fitbit have taken the utility of the wearable devices a bit farther, using anonymous uploaded data to determine the impact of various events on fitness patterns of Fitbit users around the country. Fitbit researchers recently reported, for example, that the average adult loses 1700 activity steps by sitting down to watch a football game, which equates to over 27,000 steps (the equivalent of running a half-marathon) of physical activity lost over the course of a football season. But it’s not all bad news with football, as data from Superbowl Sunday show.

Like many of you, I was emotionally entranced by the Superbowl, feeling the ups and downs of the action as the night progressed. To capture the impact of the Superbowl on emotional reactivity, Fitbit reseachers looked at aggregate heart rate data from the Boston and Seattle metropolitan areas throughout the duration of the Superbowl. Their findings show some interesting trends:

  • Football is a cardiovascular sport for spectators! The average increase in heart rate in the ending moments– Seattle goal line catch to New England interception– was about 10 beats per minute (bpm), and throughout the second half of the game heart rates were elevated 6 bpm above averages recorded on a normal, non-football Sunday.
  • Heart rates were lowest during the half-time show. Sharks and beach balls aren’t quite as exciting, perhaps.
  • Boston fans were a little less excitable than Seattle fans in general, either due to our cold New England attitudes OR the more plausible explanation that it was 3 hours earlier in the day in Seattle, when heart rates are typically higher.


Graph taken from

 Certainly these data are biased by many confounding variables, not the least of which is the fact that people who wear Fitbit devices may not be representative of the general population. But regardless, as an increasing number of mobile apps and wearable devices generate biometric data, we will be able to use data such as these to much better understand fluctuations in health statistics on a regional and national level. Supercool!


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