Can Your Mobile Phone Help You Get Fit?

Sep 13 2012 Posted: 14:13 IST

Can your mobile phone help you get fit? A former White House fitness expert will pose this question at the fifth annual Medicine 2.0 Congress which opens in Harvard Medical School, Boston, tomorrow.

Ted Vickey is a PhD researcher at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) at National University of Ireland Galway. He will tell delegates that “understanding one’s social network may be one key to better health”.

“Rather than surfing in the ocean, we are surfing the web. Rather than an outdoor game of tennis under the sun, we are inside our homes playing online virtual tennis on our Wii. People drive their cars to the gym and then take the escalator to the front door rather than walking and taking the stairs,” explains Vickey.

“But what if technology could be the solution to our problem? What if our mobile phones could track our every step, provide healthy tips during the day, even persuade or motivate us when we need it most? This dream is now a reality all across the globe and it is called Mobile Health.”

There are an estimated 13,000 health related apps in the iTunes, everything from monitoring blood pressure to tweeting body weight to tracking sleep cycles.

As part of his PhD research, Vickey and his colleagues at National University of Ireland Galway have collected over 4.5 million tweets sent via mobile fitness applications from around the world. These were then categorized into different classifications, in an attempt to understand correlations between online social networking and effective exercise motivation and adherence.

Studies have indicated that lack of motivation is a key factor in why a person does not exercise.

“Mobile fitness apps not only allow for the sharing of information between user and health care providers, but also with a user’s friends. These self-monitoring units will help change the face of health care around the globe”, said Vickey.

Vickey’s paper ‘Estimating the Long Term Effectiveness of Mobile Fitness Apps and Exercise Motivation’ has been shortlisted for the iMedicalApps-Medicine 2.0 mHealth Research Award.

Established in 2003 by National University Ireland Galway and Science Foundation Ireland, DERI has now grown to become the world’s largest semantic web research institute. It engages with companies, from start-ups through to multinationals, to develop new web solutions.


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