A better way to track exercise?

Stylish ginger girl having fun with frisbee in the park. Sunny summer day. Outdoor shot.

Perhaps the best-known problem with fitness trackers is that people often retire them to a junk drawer after a few months, once their novelty wears off. But that’s not the only issue with these devices, which are typically worn around the wrist or clipped to clothing. Sure, they’ll count your steps, display your heart rate, and even estimate how many calories you’ve burned, although you’ll probably need to sync it with an app on your smartphone, tablet, or computer to see such data.

However, very few of the popular, free apps related to physical activity are based on published evidence. And they don’t necessarily follow well-established exercise guidelines. Even if you do meet recommended daily exercise goals — like 30 minutes of brisk walking or 10,000 steps — how do you know if you’re really working your heart enough to keep it healthy?

Easy as PAI?

Now, a new scientifically validated tool, dubbed Personalized Activity Intelligence, or PAI, may have the answer. Developed by an international team of researchers, PAI is a formula that converts your heart rate to a number of points, based on your age, gender, resting heart rate, and maximum heart rate. The idea is to get an average of 100 points over an entire week, which you could earn through short stints of intense exercise, longer bouts of more moderate activity, or a combination of the two. Think of PAI as an index of how hard and how often you challenge your heart.

“It’s a different way of quantifying cardiovascular fitness that captures something that step trackers don’t, which is physical activity other than walking,” says Dr. Lauren Elson, a physiatrist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. For example, if you’re biking or raking leaves, you won’t accrue very many steps, but your heart rate may rise more than it would during a leisurely stroll.

On the flip side, some people are on their feet and active during the day and may rack up 8,000 or more steps, but their heart rates don’t necessarily go up very high. “We know that that’s better than being sedentary, but it actually doesn’t count as cardiovascular exercise,” says Dr. Elson.

Tracking the evidence

PAI was created and validated in large Norwegian fitness study that included more than 39,000 people who were followed for an average of about 26 years. Researchers developed the formula based on a subset of about 4,600 of the participants and then tested it on data from the entire group.

People who reached the weekly goal of 100 points were about 20% less likely to die of heart disease compared to those who didn’t reach that goal. Having a PAI score under 100 was linked to a shorter life — nearly 4 years less for women and 6 years less for men when compared to people with a score of 100 or higher.

It doesn’t matter if you prefer to walk at a relatively low intensity for hours or exercise at a high intensity for shorter periods of time, as long as you earn 100 PAI points per week, says study lead author Ulrik Wisløff, head of the Cardiac Exercise Research Group at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. The Mio Slice will be the first wearable device to feature PAI, but Mio plans to license the use of the PAI algorithm to other companies, Wisløff notes

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Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

Genesis 24:12-15 He said, “O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham. “Behold, I am standing by the spring, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water; now may it be that the girl to whom I say, ‘Please let down your jar so that I may drink,’ and who answers, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels also’–may she be the one whom You have appointed for Your servant Isaac; and by this I will know that You have shown lovingkindness to my master.” 

1 Chronicles 4:10 Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!” And God granted him what he requested.

2 Chronicles 14:11 Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, “LORD, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.”

Nehemiah 1:11 “O Lord, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man ” Now I was the cupbearer to the king.

Acts 4:18-31 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”     

2 Chronicles 25:19 “You said, ‘Behold, you have defeated Edom.’ And your heart has become proud in boasting. Now stay at home; for why should you provoke trouble so that you, even you, would fall and Judah with you?”

1 Samuel 2:3 “Boast no more so very proudly, Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; For the LORD is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed.

Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom.

Proverbs 16:5 Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.

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