Staying active, whatever the weather

Is Pokémon Go the answer to the inactivity crisis?

Pokémon Go has rapidly become a global phenomenon and it’s having a really positive side effect for some users – making them move more, thanks to the need for players to walk around in the real world in the hunt for Pokémon (you’ve #gottacatchemall).

Moving is crucial to the game – you need to move a prescribed distance to hatch any eggs you find (some require 10k of nurturing before they hatch). To catch different Pokémon, you have to go to spawning grounds, which tend to be in parks and other open spaces, and to get the items you need to catch Pokémon, you need to move from Pokestop to Pokestop.

Pokémon Go is neither a health app nor a fitness tracker. These tend to appeal to people who are already motivated to get healthy or to exercise – its appeal is far more wide reaching. And, it appears to have succeeded where physical activity interventions have failed, by motivating millions of people to be more active – they are so distracted by playing the game, they don’t even realise they are doing activity.

It’s great to see people getting up off the sofa, stepping away from their computers, and walking out into the real world, which can boost their chances of achieving the government’s physical activity guidelines (reports suggest that in the US users averaged 75-minutes of game play a day in the first week alone). This can only be a good thing, especially in light of new, compelling evidence published yesterday in the British Medical Journal, which suggests physical activity targets needs to be increased significantly if we want to reduce our risk of lifestyle diseases like diabetes and stroke.

Importantly, simply getting people to move more might not be having the impact on health we hope. For activity to “count”, it needs to be intense enough to burn at least 3 times the number of calories someone would burn if they were resting (i.e. 3METs or more), and for some health benefits, it needs to be done in blocks of 10-minutes or longer. So, wandering between Pokestops might not be intense enough for some people, for others, it might be fine. What’s more, we don’t know what impact the increased movement is having on other dimensions of activity – are players sitting more at other times because they’re tired from all this extra activity? We simply don’t know.

And, it’s long-term behaviour change that’s really needed to reduce risk of the serious, life-shortening diseases that are known to be linked with inactivity. And, like any craze, the popularity of Pokémon Go may already be starting to fade. It remains to be seen if people will sustain their new activity levels after they’ve stopped using the app.

In many cases, it’s unlikely given that the reason they are doing the activity will have been taken away – there will be no more Pokémon to catch and train. What’s more, they won’t know anymore about their activity than they did before they downloaded the app.

To promote effective behaviour change, KiActiv® programmes enhance individual understanding and inspire confidence to engage, motivate and empower authentic choice. And, of course, physical activity has multiple dimensions that we can take advantage of to gain the innumerable health benefits. So, each individual can choose what they want to do to optimise their physical activity and harness all of its protective properties. The key is to find out what “counts” for you.

Pokémon Go has inspired millions to get more active – now the challenge will be keeping people active long after Pikachu, Charizard and Mewtwo have faded from memory. And that’s our ultimate goal.

NHS’s £3.5m One You campaign encourages Britons to change unhealthy lifestyle behaviours, but is there a better way?

Today sees the launch of Public Health England’s One You campaign, the latest attempt to make us all make healthier choices and prevent us going on to develop the lifestyle diseases that are costing the NHS more than £11bn a year to treat.

People are asked to take a five minute quiz about key areas of their lifestyle before being given the results and advice about how to change the behaviours that are putting them at risk, like signing up to a slimming club or downloading a running app.

The sentiment is correct – we need to prevent diseases that are the result of unhealthy lifestyles, like type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Unfortunately, this campaign is unlikely to make any significant impact towards achieving this aim. In fact, critics have branded the campaign “patronising” and “hectoring”, warning that lecturing adults as if they were children will most likely prove ineffective and a waste of money.

Chris Snowdon, Institute of Economic Affairs Head of Lifestyle Economics, has been particularly damning of the campaign, saying: “It is astounding that this hectoring quango is squandering £3.5m promoting a tedious website that nobody will visit. Where there is nothing wrong with health education, there is very little that is educational about this patronising money pit. Even when they are explicating targeting middle-aged people, Public Health England cannot resist talking to us as if we were children.”

Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer, is right when she says that “we all have the power to shape our future health by making simple small changes now.” But, to effectively change behaviour we need to engage, motivate and empower people to make their own choices – not tell them what to do. And that’s exactly what KiActiv® does – it powers the effective prescription of personalised ‘free-living’ physical activity for the prevention and treatment of lifestyle diseases.

As is almost always the case, the focus of the physical activity advice given in One You is on taking up sport and exercise, such as encouragement to go to a Zumba classes and linking to the NHS couch to 5k app download.

This, like many other campaigns, misses the point – there are different ways to harness the protective properties of physical activity because it has multiple independent biologically-important dimensions. Focusing on one dimensions alone, like how many steps you take each day, creates a danger of developing a false picture of activity. Campaigns, like One You, should recognise that, as well as the oft stated reason for not being active – “I don’t have time” – many people really dislike exercise.

And that’s okay – you don’t have to exercise to gain benefits and prevent disease. There is no need to find time to squeeze a Zumba class or a run into an already busy life (unless you want to, of course) – anything that makes you move more and sit less will benefit your health. All those seemingly little movements can add up – the amount of everyday activity you get can easily add up to more minutes than a session at the gym. The key is finding what “counts” for you and deciding how you can fit more of these activities into your everyday life – that’s where KiActiv® comes in.

Find out how KiActiv® count help you in Our Solutions.

Physical Activity is the most important weapon in the fight against obesity

Have you resolved to lose weight in 2016? Make sure physical activity is included in your plan.

Weight loss can be a minefield, with the supposedly expert opinion on the “best” diet to shed the pounds changing on an almost daily basis. In fact, the most effective diet to follow is one you can stick with. And, whilst calorie intake is obviously important in weight management, new research suggests that calorie counting isn’t the key to fighting obesity – Physical Activity is.

Researchers from McMaster University in Canada found that leading a physically active lifestyle can blunt the genetic effects of FTO – a major contributor to obesity – by up to 75%.

Participants were asked how long they spent doing 41 different types of physical activity. Importantly, free-living activities like gardening, taking the stairs and walking around the office were included in the list alongside more traditional structured exercise like strength training, cycling and team sports.

So, whether your goal is to lose weight or keep healthy, physical activity is the key. The important thing is to discover what activity “counts” for you. Then the choice is yours – you can decide how you want to be active. Chances are you’re already doing at least one thing every day that counts as activity – for some people it’s walking the dog or to the corner shop to buy the morning paper, for others it’s a game of squash or a Zumba class, it might even be something that seems small and insignificant like taking the stairs.

Whatever you choose, make physical activity part of your lifestyle to improve your health in 2016 and for many more years to come.

Fitness in young adults predicts cardiovascular disease and death in later life

Physical activity is often thought of as no more than a method of weight management, but its benefits extend far beyond burning calories – it can add years to your life and life to those years, reducing the risk of numerous chronic diseases.

While physical activity has long been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in middle-aged and older adults, a new study offers fresh evidence that fitness in young adulthood provides protection against cardiovascular problems developing in the future.

As part of this large study, published online in the JAMA Internal Medicine, 4872 men and women aged between 18 and 30 years underwent a treadmill exercise test at baseline, which a sub-set of 2472 participants did again 7 years later. Median follow-up time was almost 27-years, during which the researchers monitored patients for obesity, hardening in the coronary arteries, heart muscle weakness, and incidents related to cardiovascular disease, such as strokes and heart attacks.

Every additional minute of baseline treadmill test duration was linked with a 15% lower risk of death and 12% lower risk of cardiovascular disease by the end of the follow-up period. Among those that did the second treadmill test, every 1-minute reduction in test duration was linked with a 20% increase in risk of cardiovascular events and 21% risk of death.

The fact that none of the other more traditional risk factors measured, including obesity, smoking, hypertension, and high cholesterol didn’t change the outcome highlights the importance of thinking about physical activity as a mere tool for weight loss.

In an editorial that accompanied the study, Dr David Chiriboga and Dr Ira Ockene of the University of Massachusetts Medical School wrote that “the findings offer a substantive confirmation of the importance of physical activity in cardiorespiratory fitness in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.” In further communication, Dr Ockene highlights the need for multidimensional physical activity, saying “I spend a lot of time talking to folks not just about literal exercise but also about the extraordinary value of day-today activity,” adding that we should “also understand the importance of limiting sedentary time”

The power of multidimensional physical activity as a diagnostic tool isn’t limited to cardiovascular diseases. In fact, physical activity is fundamental to the prevention and treatment of numerous diseases, including type-2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, some cancers, osteoporosis, and dementia. Being physically active is the single best thing you can do for your health, now and in the future.

The KiActiv HealthCheck accurately evaluates the current physical activity of anyone in relation to their health, delivering a meaningful measure of individual physical activity levels and the associated future disease risks. By delivering actionable behavioural insights, the KiActiv HealthCheck can help improve your understanding of current health status and what you need to do to improve your health and lower disease risk.

Move more to improve your memory

We are pretty evangelical about the power of physical activity for preventing and treating the lifestyle diseases that plague modern society. And rightly so, there is so much scientific evidence in support of physical activity as a powerful medicine that we should all be taking.

A new study, published online in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, has added to the growing evidence-base finding that staying physically active could improve our quality of life by prolonging an independent lifestyle and delaying cognitive decline as we get older.

The researchers from Boston University School of Medicine compared 29 young adults (ages 18-31) and 31 older adults (ages 55-82). All of the participants wore an accelerometer to objectively measure their daily physical activity, as well as completing neuropsychological testing to assess their memory, planning and problem-solving abilities.

The results showed that, older adults were more physically active had better memory performance. The researchers believe that these findings show that the positive effects of physical activity extend to improved long-term memory, which is the type of memory most negatively impacted by aging and neurodegenerative dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease. Around 800,000 people in the UK are currently living with dementia and that number continues to increase. We can help stop this number growing simply by moving more each day.

Importantly, the authors point out that staying physically active can take a variety of forms from formal exercise programs to small changes, such as walking or taking the stairs. In other words, physical activity is multidimensional, we just need to find out what activities work for us. And that’s where KiActiv comes in, empowering you to optimise your physical activity using the activities that “count” for you.