Are wearables really an accurate index for the physical activity needed for good health?

Twenty-four Hours of Sleep, Sedentary Behavior, and Physical Activity with Nine Wearable Devices

Medical research shows good health is promoted by adequate exercise, limited sitting and sufficient sleep. This study compared data from medical research devices for tracking physical activity with consumer wearables to see if the wearables accurately measure the important aspects of activity in a 24-hour period. Subjects wore nine devices simultaneously for 24 hours, including a full waking day and a full night of rest.

Devices were compared for measurement of exercise, sitting time, light activity, sleep and steps taken. Consumer devices did not provide the same output as the research devices – with two exceptions. The Lumoback did accurately record sitting time and the research device (Actigraph GT3x+) accurately measured sleep time. Many of the consumer wearables tested did not measure all of the 24-hour activity cycle. Yet, these are important measures of health. This research should be updated so that this rapidly changing technology can be evaluated as it evolves. The addition of accurate heart rate should improve the ability of consumer devices to measure the 24-hour activity cycle. View the study’s abstract.

By American College of Sports Medicine

Top Fitness Trend for 2017 is Wearable Technology

Annual forecast predicts what you’ll see in fitness next year

Won’t leave home without your fitness tracker? If so, you’re part of a rapidly growingtracker segment of consumers using technology to collect daily health metrics. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has announced its annual fitness trend forecast and, unsurprisingly, exercise pros say wearable technology will again be the top fitness trend in the coming year. The results were released in the article “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2017” published today in the November/December issue of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®.

“Technology is now a must-have in our daily lives. Everyone can easily count steps taken or calories burned using a wearable device or a smart phone,” said Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, the lead author of the survey and associate dean in the College of Education & Human Development at Georgia State University in Atlanta. “The health data collected by wearable technology can be used to inform the user about their current fitness level and help them make healthier lifestyle choices.”

Now in its eleventh year, the survey was completed by more than 1,800 health and fitness professionals worldwide, many certified by ACSM, and was designed to reveal trends in various fitness environments. Forty-two potential trends were given as choices, and the top 20 were ranked and published by ACSM.

“Body weight training, high-intensity interval raining (HIIT) and educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals also remained highly ranked on the survey,” said Thompson. “These trends reflect continued strong consumer interest in strength training and functional fitness.”

The top 10 fitness trends for 2017 are:

1. Wearable Technology: includes activity trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors and GPS tracking devices.

bodyweight2. Body Weight Training: Body weight training uses minimal equipment making it more affordable. Not limited to just push-ups and pull-ups, this trend allows people to get “back to the basics” with fitness.

3. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT, which involves short bursts of activity followed by a short period of rest or recovery, these exercise programs are usually performed in less than 30 minutes.

4. Educated and Experienced Fitness Professionals. Given the large number of organizations offering health and fitness certifications, it’s important that consumers choose professionals certified through programs that are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), such as those offered by ACSM. ACSM is one of the largest and most prestigious fitness-certification organizations in the world.

5. Strength Training. Strength training remains a central emphasis for many health clubs. Incorporating strength training is an essential part of a complete exercise program for all physical activity levels and genders. (The other essential components are aerobic exercise and flexibility.)

6. Group Training: Group exercise instructors teach, lead and motivate individualsgroup though intentionally designed group exercise classes. Group programs are designed to be motivational and effective for people at different fitness levels, with instructors using leadership techniques that help individuals in their classes achieve fitness goals.

7. Exercise is Medicine. Exercise is Medicine is a global health initiative that is focused on encouraging primary care physicians and other health care providers to include physical activity when designing treatment plans for patients and referring their patients to exercise professionals.

yoga8. Yoga. Based on ancient tradition, yoga utilizes a series of specific bodily postures practiced for health and relaxation. This includes Power Yoga, Yogalates, Bikram, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Kripalu, Anurara, Kundalini, Sivananda and others.

9. Personal Training. More and more students are majoring in kinesiology, which indicates that they are preparing themselves for careers in allied health fields such as personal training. Education, training and proper credentialing for personal trainers have become increasingly important to the health and fitness facilities that employ them.

10. Exercise and Weight Loss. In addition to nutrition, exercise is a key component of a proper weight loss program. Health and fitness professionals who provide weight loss programs are increasingly incorporating regular exercise and caloric restriction for better weight control in their clients.

The full list of top 20 trends is available in the article “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2017.”

Exercise is Prevention

Recently, I received a letter from my health insurance agency regarding a free online service which provided supportive self-help tools for health. It caused me some concern when they referred to high blood pressure and high cholesterol as common conditions. While these may be common conditions, the risk of developing many of these can be decreased with lifestyle choices, which was the aim of the on-line service.

Studies show that with lifestyle modifications, including diet and exercise, both heart disease and stroke are 75 to 80 percent preventable and type 2 diabetes is 90 percent preventable. For those individuals who have a genetic predisposition to a disease or have already been diagnosed, lifestyle choices can help the individual manage the disease and reduce potential complications. Numerous authorities have noted the importance of exercise and lifestyle.

As early as 1979, the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report stated that risk could be “reduced if persons at risk improved just five habits:…..diet,…..exercise.” In 1996, the Surgeon General’s Report addressing physical activity and health summarized the findings, suggesting that “people of all ages can improve the quality of their lives through a lifelong practice of moderate activity.” More recently, Dr. Jordan Metzl from NYC’s Hospital for Special Surgery claims that “Exercise is the best preventive drug we have and everybody needs to take that medicine.”

But are we taking that medicine? ACSM and the CDC recommend an accumulation of at least 2.5 hours of moderate-to-intense aerobic exercise a week. That’s 30 minutes five days a week. Yet data show that only about 21 percent of the adult population is meeting those guidelines. Other research puts the percentage as low as 5 percent. Most of us realize the importance of exercise so why aren’t we exercising?  That might be a question we each need to ask ourselves. The evidence in favor of exercise is certainly there.

Additionally, if exercise is prevention, perhaps the emphasis should be on starting the habits at an early age. Research shows that children who participate in regular exercise are better off in many ways when they grow up. Considering the epidemic of childhood obesity and its associated co-morbidities that reach into adulthood, intervention at an early age is vital. By reducing caloric intake, reducing sedentary behavior and increasing physical activity, we will be setting a strong foundation toward preventing adverse health conditions in our youth, while instilling healthy habits that will pay off later on. Here are some of the noted benefits of childhood exercise:

•    Children who are physically active tend to keep being active as adults
•    Exercise will help maintain stronger bones
•    It assists in maintaining healthy body weight
•    Team activities help the development of interpersonal skills
•    It helps prevent or delay the development of chronic conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

So, put in a good amount of physical activity when you are planning family time, and when you’re considering an ounce of prevention for better health, remember that a good dose of exercise goes a long way. While there are some risks associated with increased activity, the rewards outweigh the risks.

Your body will thank you for it!

By: Sue Brown

Inflammation, Disease and Exercise

You may have heard the term “chronic inflammation” but may not know what it is or why it is important. Inflammation is an immune system response to harmful agents or damaged cells and is usually termed acute or chronic. Chronic inflammation refers to a more gradual, prolonged inflammatory response that involves progressive changes in various cell types and functions that can persist for several years with deleterious effects. For example, chronic low-grade inflammation associated with obesity plays a central role in the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes (the most common form of diabetes.)

Similarly, this type of inflammation also contributes to the underlying mechanism responsible for the atherosclerotic process in the coronary arteries, which is the hallmark of the most common form of heart disease and associated with stroke. Further, a number of inflammatory markers are known to increase with advancing age, likely contributing to the development of a number of age-associated diseases (mentioned above but also including dementia and cognitive impairment.)

Now the good news. Participation in regular aerobic exercise has been shown to have numerous beneficial effects resulting in an improved inflammatory profile and overall immune function in individuals suffering from chronic low-grade inflammation. These benefits stem from the anti-inflammatory effects associated with physical activity. Not only can regular exercise help individuals who already have chronic inflammation and the associated diseases, but exercise can also serve as a prevention strategy to lower the risk of ever developing chronic inflammation in healthy populations.

The extent to which regular exercise will exert these beneficial effects will be dependent upon the frequency, duration and intensity of your exercise program. While the exact causes for this anti-inflammatory effect of exercise are not completely understood, contributing factors include the reduction in visceral (belly) fat and alterations in the responsiveness to stress hormones.

Along those lines, it has been known for some time that chronic stress plays a significant role in the development of prolonged low-grade inflammation. While short, transient periods of stress do not have this negative impact, more prolonged periods of stress, (whether from financial, family/relationship, work environments, etc.) clearly have multiple deleterious effects on your overall health and risk of disease. Here again, participation in regular exercise can help to offset the negative effects of chronic stress. Studies have shown that exercise can improve your “resistance” to the negative effects of stress thereby decreasing the unwanted impact it would likely have on your immune system, inflammatory response and eventual risk for disease.

Finally, we all realize that a number of our biological systems decline as we get older. This includes a decline in immune function accompanied by an increase in chronic inflammation. Several studies have demonstrated that an inverse relationship exists between the amount of physical activity one engages in and the degree of inflammation in older populations. Thus, of the many potential health benefits associated with regular physical activity, you can add a reduction in the pro-inflammatory state to the list.

While the benefits of regular exercise are numerous, it is important to recognize that some individuals have a compromised immune response and must balance rest with exercise and monitor their health. An altered immune response can be due to the type of underlying disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, or medication interactions.

Using sit-to-stand workstations at the office – what are the after-work effects?

Sedentary behavior, or sitting, is a common health-related behavior in adults. Research has shown that prolonged sitting increases the risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes and some cancers. Sit-to-stand workstations are becoming common in offices to help workers reduce their sitting time. This study examined time spent sitting at work, and after work, in office workers provided with sit-to-stand workstations for three months. The findings indicated that sitting time at work was reduced by 20 percent (a 1.5 hour reduction over an eight hour workday.) However, these individuals became slightly more sedentary after work. Despite this compensation effect, total daily sitting times were still lower when participants used sit-to-stand desks at work. Findings suggest that sit-to-stand workstations are a promising alternative to the traditional desk and chair, and could lead to substantial health benefits in sedentary workers. Further research is needed to examine the long term use of sit-to-stand desks on health.

Read the abstract