Monitoring your daily dose of physical activity has just become easier with a new program that's been devised for the purpose, which uses everyday gadgets like a cell phone or mp3 player.
Chinmay Manohar in the Department Endocrinology, Nutrition and Diabetes of the Mayo Clinic is the brain behind the device that will help motivate people to be more active.
Manohar will be presenting his team's work at the 2010 Experimental Biology meeting in Anaheim, CA on April 24-28. His presentation, entitled "Laboratory evaluation of the accuracy of a triaxial accelerometer embedded into a cell phone platform for measuring physical activity," is based on research performed with Shelly McCrady and James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN; and Yuichi Fujiki and Ioannis Pavlidis from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Houston, Houston, TX.
The idea took hold when a study published by Manohar's department showed that under a controlled diet, leaner people tend to spend two and a half more hours per day standing than did heavier people. The results indicated that leaner people were more active in their day-to-day activities even when they weren't exercising. According to Manohar, "If that is the case, why don't we encourage people to get out of their chairs?"
Manohar's group set out to design a device to promote more physical activity. The ideal device would be something that is affordable and commercially available.
The team settled on the iPhone and the iPod Touch because many people already own these devices and they come with built in motion sensors. The research group created a program called the Walk n'Play that can be downloaded for free through iTunes to distribute the technology to a wider population.
The current version of Walk n'Play is fairly basic, according to Manohar. The user inputs their height and weight into the program and throughout the day, their score can be monitored. The program will tell the user if they are winning or losing against the computer. There is no pressure and the game does not ask you to do any specific exercise. But turning physical activity into a game makes people more competitive and more likely to get active.