Is Counting Steps A Waste of Time?

Everyday I see a new ‘wearable’ product being launched with the promise that it would motivate me to be more active, lose weight, improve health & prevent all the potential ill effects of inactivity. Yet as a father of two kids there is never enough time to be active and certainly not the two hours it takes to complete the daily recommended activity goal of 10,000 steps!

So what’s the solution ? In a seminal piece of work, Paul T. Williams from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab analyzed over 30 different studies covering over 2 million person years of follow-up to conclusively demonstrate that being fit is much more beneficial (i.e. lower risk of heart disease) than being active. In fact even a moderate improvement in fitness is more beneficial than being the most active person on the planet!

Fitness here is specifically defined as ‘cardio-respiratory fitness’ i.e. the ability of your heart & lungs to supply oxygen to your muscles when engaged in sustained physical activity.

As a result, the American Heart Association in 2013 issued a policy statement stating that “Cardio-respiratory fitness is the most important correlate of overall health status … and perhaps the strongest predictor for CVD and total mortality”. So if you have time to focus on improving one thing, that should be your fitness level not your activity.

Not to suggest that counting steps (or calories) is not beneficial at all … but it doesn’t seem like a smart way to improve your health. Fitness on the other hand is best improved through short bursts of high intensity training … so you actually spend less time yet can be healthier!


1. Paul T. Williams, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 May ; 33(5): 754–761
2. Donatello, Rebeka J. (2005). Health, The Basics. San Francisco: Pearson Education, Inc. (
3. Kaminsky et al A National Registry for Cardiorespiratory Fitness. Circulation. 2013;127:652-662

Cool Ideas to Leverage the iPhone’s New M7 Processor

20130910_134447-L1-580x326Apple launched the iPhone 5s earlier this week and one of the interesting new capabilities it revealed was the M7 chip that continuously tracks data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass. All 3 sensors have been previously available but until now could not be run in the background (something I would have really liked to have had 3 years ago when I buit Fitaide which used the accelerometer).

There’s already been speculation on the potential impact this could have on wearables like Fitbit & Nike Fuelband, which pretty much offer the same benefit today in a dedicated device. On the plus side this could also end up helping wearables by giving them a user base to upgrade from a ‘lite’ experience, so its not a surprise that Nike was amongst the first to launch an app, called Nike+ Moves.

The core technology however has many potential applications and got me thinking about doing an experimental app that could demonstrate some cool new features. Here are a few ideas, pick the one you would personally like to use. Also let me know, via comments or other means, any other suggestions you have.

UPDATE (09/25) : The poll is now closed, thanks to everyone who participated. You can see the results below. And now comes the fun stuff … we’re going to build out an app that will have the top 2 features that won in the poll. Look out for the wireframes in the blog post below!