Your Apple Watch can predict COVID-19 infection — here’s how

Apple Watch
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Your Apple Watch can help determine if you have COVID-19 a week before symptoms appear, all thanks to its heart rate monitoring capabilities. 

According to CBS News, new medical studies have found that Apple's wearable, along with other flagship smartwatches, can detect “subtle changes in an individual’s heartbeat” that would indicate their potential to be infected with the coronavirus even if they appear to be asymptomatic at the time. 

Research conducted by Mount Sinai Health analyzed the Apple Watch’s ability to estimate the heart rate variability by measuring intervals between heartbeats. The study was based on 297 health workers wearing the device, with the focus group wearing an Apple Watch for five consecutive months (April 29 to September 29).

The researchers concluded that COVID-positive individuals tend to show little variation in time between heartbeats compared to those that are COVID-negative.

Rob Hirten, assistant professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, told CBS: "We already knew that heart rate variability markers change as inflammation develops in the body, and Covid is an incredibly inflammatory event. It allows us to predict that people are infected before they know it."

Most importantly, Hirten highlighted that an Apple Watch “can identify people who might be asymptomatic. It's a way to better control infectious diseases." 

Another study conducted by Stanford University in California was based on participants wearing not only Apple Watch, but other known fitness trackers from brands like Fitbit and Garmin. The Stanford researchers suggested that 81% of those that were tested positive for COVID-19 experienced changes in their resting heart rates sometimes up to nine and a half days before developing symptoms. 

The experts hope that smartwatches will “play a vital role in stemming the pandemic and other communicable diseases.”

While Apple is yet to introduce appropriate software that will help everyday users detect COVID-19 symptoms from very early on, those eager to track their overall health can make use of other features introduced by Apple in the meantime. 

With the introduction of watchOS 7.2 and iOS 14.3, Apple Watch users are able to make use of Apple Watch Cardio Fitness, one of the most useful health-related features on the flagship wearable. 

This feature enables users to track the state of their overall health through a metric called VO2 max, estimating the maximum amount of oxygen that the body consumes on a daily basis. The update also allows the user to improve their health, by classifying the fitness level of an individual and sharing advice on how to improve.

Check out our pick for the best fitness trackers and best smartwatches if you want to get yourself a stellar wearable device to monitor your health. 

Denise Primbet
News Writer

Denise is a Life Reporter at Newsweek, covering everything lifestyle-related, including health, relationships, personal finance, beauty and more. She was formerly a news writer at Tom’s Guide, regularly producing stories on all things tech, gaming software/hardware, fitness, streaming, and more. Her published content ranges from short-form news articles to long-form pieces, including reviews, buying guides, how-tos, and features. When she's not playing horror games, she can be found exploring East London with her adorable puppy. She’s also a part-time piano enthusiast and regularly experiments in the kitchen.