Technology and physical activity 2 June 2014 Today I discovered underwater headphones and digital jumping ropes as the newest gadgets for physical activity. With a price to match, would these toys work miracles and help me be more active? Technology can motivate us to become more physically active. But it does not need to be fancy or expensive. While many people know that being physically active is good for health, it is not always easy to put into practice. Being physically active can help to: lower blood glucose levels lower blood pressure lower cholesterol strengthen bones improve energy levels improve sleep improve moods reduce stress and tension Being sedentary is a problem Being sedentary (or staying in a sitting or lying down position for long periods) can make your health worse. Common sedentary behaviours include watching TV, playing video games or using the computer, driving a car and reading a book. New research has found that including short periods of activity over the day to break up the amount of time spent sitting or lying down can help to improve our health. Standing workstations and walking meetings are becoming more common to reduce prolonged periods of sitting in the workplace. Common technology solutions Pedometers are used to track how many steps you are taking each day. Aim for 8000 to 10,000 steps a day for good health. On average, people who use pedometers walk 27 per cent more, especially when setting a goal like walking 10,000 steps a day. People who walk less than 5000 steps a day are considered sedentary. Pedometers arenâ€™t all that expensive, you can pick one up for $30â€“$50. Check out 1000 steps for more information. Heart rate monitors measure the number of times your heart beats per minute to check your response to exercise. Some heart rate monitors have extra features like calorie counting or lap timing. As heart rate monitors are made up of a transmitter to be worn around your chest and a receiver on your wrist, it is best to decide on comfort and design before you buy. Smartphone technology People with smartphones can use apps to track things like blood glucose levels, distance walked or run, body weight, food intake and even sample exercise workout plans. These are linked to smartphones or computers so that people can monitor activity patterns. Some people share this information with friends and family to encourage (or compete with!) each other in staying physically active. Others check updated weather details to plan activity accordingly. Some of our favourite free apps are Run Keeper, Couch to 5k and Nike Training Club. Newer devices A digital jumping rope not only counts the number of jumps but also energy used and distance travelled. Or if you enjoy your music even in wet conditions (or underwater), underwater headphones may be your next toy! For now, it is not known how effective these are in helping people become more active. Areas of research Newer devices like accelerometers track how fast someone moves, rather than just the number of steps taken. This device predicts how much energy is used up in being active and has a more direct relationship with reducing body weight. People may use heart rate monitors with accelerometers. Fun is key to being active! Using technology, new or old alike, can help you enjoy being active and motivate you to continue with your activities. Fun and enjoyment are keys to being more physically active. Just as some love golf and others like to swim or walk, discover what you like to make your activity a lifelong habit. Before you start any new exercise make sure you get the OK from your GP who can assess your health and the medications you are taking. Then start slowly â€“ you donâ€™t want to injure yourself in your first workout.