- Tracking fitness levels by traditional methods like writing down what people remember, leads to overestimation of the activity levels.
- The use of iPhone app MyHeart Counts will help track cardiovascular health in real-time.
- The aim of the study is to provide real-world evidence of both the physical activity patterns most beneficial to people.
Smartphones could be the future of cardiovascular research.
There is widespread ownership of smartphones around the world that would provide rapid, large-scale and real-time measurement of individuals' physical activity and could potentially transform cardiovascular research.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and published in JAMA Cardiology.
Importance of Physical Activity
Physical activity can reduce the risk of heart disease by 50% and lack of physical activity accounts for 5.3 million deaths worldwide annually.
To maintain cardiovascular health the role of healthy diet, physical activity, fitness and sleep is very important. A major risk factor for heart disease is low fitness levels
The iPhone app was launched by Standford researchers in March 2015. This app gave users the ability to participate in cardiovascular research, measure daily activities, complete tasks and answer surveys through their iPhone.
Researchers had enrolled 47,109 participants who had consented to participate in the study, from all 50 states .
Researchers collected data from 4,990 participants who had completed a six-minute walk fitness test using the phone's built-in motion sensors.
"The ultimate goals of the MyHeart Counts study are to provide real-world evidence of both the physical activity patterns most beneficial to people and the most effective behavioral motivation approaches to promote healthy activity," said Michael McConnell, MD, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford.
Tracking fitness levels by traditional methods like writing down what people remember, leads to overestimation of the activity levels. McConnell said. "Mobile devices let us measure more directly people's activity patterns throughout the day."
Basic health information like age, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and risk factors were collected from the users and they were asked to keep their phone with them as much as possible.
Occasional surveys on topics like diet, well-being, risk perception, work-related and leisure-time physical activity, sleep and cardiovascular health status were also conducted.
The app provided participants with feedback on their risk of developing heart disease.
"The large numbers of subjects we were able to get so quickly provided very rich data sets of information," said Shcherbina, an expert in data analysis.
"One of the most interesting things we found was that not just the amount of activity mattered but also the pattern," Shcherbina said. "We looked at activity states and compared, say, one person who worked out just at the end of the work day with another person who was active in short bursts throughout the day, changing from sitting to standing to walking."
The findings showed that prolonged periods of inactivity increased risk for metabolic syndrome and diabetes
Among groups of subjects with similar activity levels, those who were active throughout the day rather than in a single, relatively short interval reported better levels of cardiovascular health with lower rates of chest pain, heart attacks and atrial fibrillation.
Research showed that the "weekend warriors", or those who got most of their exercise on the weekend, were among the healthier groups.
The old adage "early to bed, early to rise", in relation to bed time was found to be true, with participants who slept early and rose early, reporting higher levels of well-being.
Researchers hope to launch an Android version of the MyHeart Counts app to broaden the reach of the ongoing study.
- Michael McConnel et al. Feasibility of Obtaining Measures of Lifestyle From a Smartphone App:The MyHeart Counts Cardiovascular Health Study. JAMA Cardiology; (2016) doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2016.4395