Can The Garmin Vivosmart (Or Any Inactivity Monitor) Make You Healthier?

Americans do a lot of sitting. We sit in our cars, we sit watching TV , we sit reading or when interfacing with our computers and often our work involves many hours of sitting in front of a computer.

All this sitting or sedentariness  has been associated with an increased risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality,

One recent study concluded

 “limiting sitting to <3 h/day and limiting television viewing to <2 h/day may increase life expectancy at birth in the USA by approximately 2.0 and 1.4 years, respectively, assuming a causal relationship.”

Even if you make your way to the gym and  meet current physical activity guidelines, excessive sedentary behavior may have adverse implications, particularly if you are older.

Recent studies suggests that longer-term consequences of not engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity (too little exercise) are different from those of habitual sedentary behavior.

Dr. James Levine has been a leader of the “anti-chair mafia” and research on the negative effects of sedentariness and has written a book entitled “Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It” , available here.

Sitting Is Not NEAT!

The energy expended during daily life (exclusive of purposeful exercise) has been measured with special sensor equipped underwear and is termed non exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT).

Individuals who are lean have high NEAT. They are up and moving around 2 and  1/4 hours per day more than those who are obese and burn an extra 350 kcl/day of energy.

I advise all my patients to move as much as possible during their normal work or leisure day. Take frequent walking breaks, climb stairs, attach your computer to a treadmill, do anything to avoid prolonged sitting.

Activity and Inactivity Monitoring

You can now easily monitor your activity during the day with one of multiple smartphone apps and/or an associated wearable.

The skeptical cardiologist plunged into the wearable activity monitor world recently and purchased a Garmin Vivosmart (engadget review entitled “where fitness band meets smartphone”  here.)

I chose it from all the competing devices because of the following features

  • pairs with iPhone to sync data and display iPhone calls/messages-
  • monitors movement during sleep
  • monitors inactivity
  • monitors steps taken

I plan to report more extensively on all the features of this cool gizmo after I’ve had it longer.

Promotion of Physical Activity

The Vivosmart does a number of things that are designed to promote physical activity.

steps
The Vivosmart telling me I have taken 11, 639 steps. These were all taken during work, walking between patient rooms and between the hospital, the OR and my office. A read out on my steps motivates me to move more, take stairs, and embrace movement as a valuable thing.

It counts your steps pretty reliably and can monitor your heart rate when paired with a chest heart rate monitor.

It will help you visualize how close you are to reaching your steps per day goal and congratulate you when you reach it.

In addition it monitors your activity and takes note of your inactivity.

If you haven’t moved sufficiently in one hour it vibrates and displays “MOVE!” on its LEDs. If you don’t move enough to satisfy its criteria it will remind you every 15 minutes thereafter to MOVE!.

This sounds good on paper but it didn’t; work that well in practice for me.

A typical day at the office for me involves a lot of brief bursts of walking, some stair climbing, and a fair amount of standing.

MOve
The Vivosmart inactivity monitor, telling me that I have been inactive for 41 minutes. In 19 minutes it will warn me to move by vibrating and flashing. I’ve been active this whole time, however, never sitting more than 10 minutes.

For instance, I walk to the patient exam room and sit down to take the patient’s history. At some point I stand up and exam the patient. When the visit is done I either walk back to my office to complete the office note or go to the next exam room. There is very little prolonged sitting occurring but these frequent, brief bursts of activity do no reset the Garmin Vivosmart.

Prolonged sitting is really what we want to avoid but the Vivosmart will only reset your inactivity meter if you walk continuously about 200 steps. Standing still even if interspersed with brief bursts of walking for less than two min,tes will not reset it.

If your job or normal day consists mostly of sitting for prolonged periods of time then this reminder to move may be helpful. However, for zero dollars you could  program your cell phone to go off every hour and serve essentially the same function.

I heartily endorse anything that gets my patients up and moving and off the couch. I think the Garmin Vivosmart (and other similar fitness trackers) is a step in the right direction and can lend focus and motivation to the goal of keeping active during the day.

To accurately measure NEAT, however, we may need magic wired underwear, something the public may not be ready for :).

-spending entirely too much time sitting and blogging,

-ACP

3 thoughts on “Can The Garmin Vivosmart (Or Any Inactivity Monitor) Make You Healthier?”

  1. I am using a Fitbit Charge HR. I too think it has helped me try to become more active. I can check my heart rate easily and it keep track of my sleep patterns.

  2. In my opinion, I feel that the Move Bar is actually calibrated just right: you might *feel* like you move a lot and not sit a lot, but the Garmin is telling you otherwise: walking a few meters to the office kitchen is not the same as going down the stairs, past reception, through the car park, and back up the stairs to go get fruit… And if you stand a lot, but don’t actually move a lot, it is just as bad. Moving with enough effort and just jiggling about are not the same thing.

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