A Cell Phone Program Monitors Physical Activity

Chinmay Manohar of the Mayo Clinic is designing a device to help
motivate people to be more active. His team has developed a program that helps
people monitor their normal day-to-day physical activity using an everyday
device like a cell phone or mp3 player.

Manohar’s work is based on research performed with Shelly McCrady
and James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. and Yuichi Fujiki and
Ioannis Pavlidis from the department of computer science at the University of

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
were not exercising.

“If that is the case, why don’t we encourage people to get out
of their chairs?” Manohar, said in a news release.

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. More and more Smart phones are using
motion sensors and making the program compatible between platforms will not be

“You have to put an element of fun into the whole thing to
encourage people to be more active,” Manohar said. “We put people
into a gaming mind-set and people unknowingly do exercise and have fun doing

The group tested positions from 31 volunteers like sitting, standing and
lying down and tested seven speeds on the treadmill to determine how precise
the program was. Using the results of these movement tests, Manohar’s
group developed a gold standard for typical movements used in daily activities.

The group further modified the program to integrate basic social
networking. Fitness and weight-loss in general is easier to do with a buddy.
The newer features will allow a person to play against their friends or even
compete with people or top performers from other countries or time zones. Users
can even post their performance as their Twitter status.

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