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Counting your steps...

16 Feb 2015 5:17 PM - A smartphone tool that's good for your health.
Counting your steps 2,3,4,5

I was very spoiled at Christmas and received a new smartphone. I’m still working out how to use it and have probably only discovered about 1% of its capability but one of the little apps I discovered was the free health app which (among other things) tracks my steps (provided I have it with me).

Anyway, I set myself a daily walking goal and started tracking my daily activity. I’m still not exactly sure how it knows (for example it knows when I am moving by car or tram instead of on foot) and I have been curious as to how reliable it is. I’ve had a pedometer before and you needed to calibrate it for your gait in order to get an accurate reading but this smartphone “just seems to know”. It’s a bit spooky.

Well, the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association has recently published a study evaluating the accuracy of smartphone apps and wearable devices as compared to pedometers.

And it seems the smartphones came out pretty well.  Although it was only a small study, the smartphone apps showed reliability to within 7%. The reliability of the wearable devices ranged from 22.7% under to 1.5% over.

According to the lead author, Dr Mitesh Patel…

"I would say that if you already have a smartphone, there are many free apps that can let you start tracking your step counts within a few minutes."

In my opinion, unless you have a specific reason for needing more information or tightly controlled accuracy, the smartphone is just fine. It doesn't really matter if it’s not perfect. I am more interested in daily activity and trends over time*.

So, seeing as my pedometer has been languishing in a draw for a number of years and I don’t really want to acquire yet another “toy” which I would then have to remember to wear (and besides what colour would I buy?) or recharge, I’m very happy to use my smartphone to track my daily steps, and if you aren't already, I encourage you to give it a try too.

It’s definitely made me more conscious of my daily activity and, seeing as most of us don’t go anywhere without our phone these days, it’s a great little motivational tool to encourage you to go just that little bit further and, in my book, every little bit helps!

So, get your smartphone working for you and see whether it makes a difference to your daily incidental exercise.

In good health,

Kaye Wright
Melbourne CBD

*although I wouldn't rely on them for calorie expenditure as they don't take into account degree of difficulty in your steps.

Footnote November 2015: an Australian study just published has shown a positive reduction in mortality risk similar to that gained by taking cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins) when you increase your steps to 10,000 per day. Even as few as 3000 per day has positive benefits.

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