10,000 Fitbits are now a part of a year-long government health study

We've been hearing a lot lately about various entities giving away wearables like the Apple Watch in order to encourage people keep track of their health, but it turns out that US government prefers the Fitbit.

Today the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it had purchased 10,000 Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Alta HR devices for use in its All of Us program. The program was originally called the Precision Medicine Initiative when it was introduced by President Obama in 2015. 

The idea is to collect biometric data from a wide swath of Americans in order to learn more about how individual activity affects health. Eventually the organization wants to have one million Americans involved in the project. 

The actual data collection is being handled by the The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI). After a year goes by, TSRI will tell the NIH how to best use the Fitbit devices in a wider rollout. 

A band apart

So why did the NIH choose Fitbit over Apple? A lot of it has to do with the fact that they don't need to be charged all the time.

"The Fitbit devices selected track a combination of physical activity, sleep and heart rate parameters," said Eric Topol, Founder and Director of STSI, in a prepared statement. "The popularity of Fitbit devices among millions of Americans, combined with their ease of use, including multi-day battery life and broad compatibility with smartphones, made Fitbit a natural choice for this pilot program."

The announcement goes on to say that a recent report in the FASEB Journal showed that Fitbit trackers have been reliably used in more than 470 published studies, which puts it ahead of other trackers by far. (Notably, they've been used for 95% of the research the NIH has funded in the past.)

It's worth noting, though, that a study from the JAMA Cardiology journal from earlier this year found that the Apple Watch was the most accurate device for measuring heart rates. The study also found that all devices tended to slip in accuracy the harder someone exercised.