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.

To change physical activity behaviour you need to make the data useful

Rather unsurprisingly, new research has shown that simply asking people to wear an activity monitor didn’t result in them doing more steps.

Without context, data isn’t useful.

For the study, 36 physical education students were given a monitor and told it would measure the amount of sunlight they received each day. Later, they were each given a second monitor to count their steps. In fact, both monitors were counting the number of steps the participants took each day.

There was no difference in the number of steps measured by the two devices – knowing they were being monitored didn’t motivate the participants to change their physical activity behaviour.

When people are given standard, non-personalised information about “one-size-fits-all” physical activity, behaviour change is moderate at best, and any gains are not sustained in the long-term. Providing contexualised data feedback promotes an understanding of personal physical activity, which is integral to various scientific models of behaviour change and regulation.

So, if I only told you that yesterday you did a total of 132-minutes of moderate-intensity activity, would you change the activity you had planned to do today? What about tomorrow? Probably not, you’d probably just keep living your normal life –  just like the people in the study.

What if I told you that if you could increase that activity by just 18-minutes a day you would meet your daily goal and reduce your risk of getting a number of chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. And, what if I guided you to decide how you could achieve the extra 18-minutes using activities you already do in your lifestyle – that you could achieve this by adding 9-minutes to your morning and evening commute (e.g. use a car park further away from the office), or by going for an 18-minute walk at lunch time.

You would know what you need to do and how you can do it – the data is contextualised and personal.

Personal contextualised data feedback empowers physical activity behaviour change, simply seeing a single number does not.

KiActiv® programmes combine the latest technologies with cutting edge academic understanding to empower self-management and support self-endorsed lifestyle change. This makes the wearable data valuable and creates individual understanding that empowers authentic choice, which promotes effective behaviour change. Our personalised digital medicine is natural, safe and accessible to everyone.

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.

Get up every half an hour for your health

Sitting down all day is far too easy to do – sitting driving the car or on public transport, working at a computer, and watching TV make up the majority of the day for far too many of us. Even those of us who fit in 30-minutes of exercise and 8-hours sleep on most days tend to sit down the hours that are left.

All this sitting is damaging our health.

New research from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in Canada has added to the growing body of evidence showing that the more we sit down, the more damage we are doing to our health. The researchers looked at the association between markers of health and sedentary time in 278 patients with coronary artery disease. All the patients had already been through a cardiac rehabilitation programme which aimed to teach them how to improve their physical activity levels in the long term. Despite learning how to lead an active lifestyle, on average the patients spent almost 8-hours a day sedentary – the more sedentary they were the higher their BMI and the lower their fitness, putting them at risk of another cardiac event.

These researchers suggested that everyone should get up and move every half an hour – reducing our sedentary time may be just as important as increasing activity, we need to do both.

Following this advice wouldn’t just reduce your risk of cardiovascular problems. Breaking sedentary time with 5-minutes of either walking or standing has recently been shown to reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes.

So, take the advice of the researchers and monitor your activity patterns to see when you’re sedentary for too long – then you can decide how to break your sedentary. It could be as simple as walking to get a small glass of water every half an hour (try going to the kitchen that’s furthest away from your desk) or standing up during the TV adverts.

The latest Mi-PACT research has been published!

The latest research paper from our partners at the University of Bath has been published in the journal Trials. In this latest paper, the researchers describe the protocol for Mi-PACT, their National Prevention Research Initiative funded study which examines whether the personalised multidimensional physical activity profiles that are visualised in the KiActiv system are effective for improving physical activity behaviour.

You can read their research here.