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The Electronics of Staying Fit

My friends Ron and Edda Laxer were visiting in Kingston this weekend. Ron and Edda are both very fit, and Ron is increasingly finding ways to stay in shape. He introduced me to a product called ‘Fitbit’, which is a small device worn on your wrist to track your activity: your steps, your calories burned and much more. It communicates through Bluetooth with any smart-like device; an iPhone, an iPad or equivalent.

This has prompted me to investigate what is out there. And what is out there is amazing! There are wireless weight scales, activity-tracking headbands, and devices that give you feedback on the effectiveness of how you brush your teeth. There are devices that can “detect viruses, bacteria, toxins, proteins and even allergens in food using the smartphone’s camera as a spectrometer.”1 You can monitor your heart rate, your distances travelled, your sleep time, your sleep quality, your calories burned, the intensity of a workout, how much you perspire, and your skin temperature.

How do these devices work? Well it’s all about providing feedback to accelerate self-motivation. “They make you constantly aware of how active you are (or aren’t). They let you compare your data with friends online, establishing a friendly rivalry or at least guilt. And they therefore motivate you to make changes that add up: park farther away, take the stairs, get off one bus stop early.”2

I am sure there may be evidence as to how effective these exercise feedback tools are. But to be very scientific, I am going to start my own N=1 trial. I am currently doing pretty well with my roughly five days per week, hour-long exercise routine. But I can do better!

So I am off to the fitness store to ‘arm-up’ with the latest and greatest fitness tracker. I’ll hook it up to my computer, my iPhone and my iPad. I’ll count my steps, track my calories, and measure my distances travelled. And I’ll report back to you, my blog readers, on how I have done.

So if you have any advice on how to use these marvels of technology or any other suggestions for keeping fit, respond to the blog; or better yet… please drop by the Macklem House, my door is always open.


  1. http://mobihealthnews.com/22674/timeline-smartphone-enabled-health-devices/3/
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/15/technology/personaltech/a-review-of-new-activity-tracking-bands-from-nike-and-jawbone.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  3. http://www.google.ca/search?q=printout+of+fitness+device+to+your+wrist&hl=en-CA&gbv=2&prmd=ivns&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=a6vfU7rAMcukyATntoDgAg&ved=0CAUQ_AU

Bill Moore (Meds ' 62, Columbus, Ohio, USA)

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 14:12

Richard, welcome back and thanks for providing information about this important, rapidly evolving topic. Hopefully you will do well for a long time with these new gadgets, which young people are really tuned-in on understanding, using and benefiting from, unless they obsess about them too much and start to favor these behavioral inputs over those of their more-experienced educators and mentors who personalize their advice better.

I imagine that Queen’s Health Sciences faculty are having to address and adapt to today’s and tomorrow’s technology to remain successful in their teaching and interaction with students, and for their students to be well prepared for patients who have already researched the Internet and seen “Ask your doctor” TV ads for what they think is their diagnosis and should be their treatment. Sometimes, too much information from less-than-reliable sources can be toxic for the patient and very challenging for the health-care professional.

I hope and assume Queen’s is moving as rapidly as it can to keep up with/get ahead of the new normal health technology revolution, as it was clearly demonstrated during my last Meds reunion.

Thanks again Richard for selecting this topic. As usual, I look forward to learning more from faculty members about current and planned activities to address it, despite how busy they must be with teaching, research and patient care. Perhaps some Queen’s Health Sciences schools/departments have Web sites where this forward-looking topic is promoted.

Bill Moore (Meds ‘ 62)

Bill Moore (Meds ' 62, Columbus, Ohio, USA)

Dear Bill,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. You touch on an important issue, that is striking the balance between capturing the benefits of new technology, but not being wed to technology for its own sake. We certainly do try to teach our students to deploy new methods while at the same time holding dear those time- honoured methods that still serve our patients well.


Clay Hammett

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 14:12

Richard. I like the Nike Fuelband as a glorified pedometer. It tracks minimum exercise threshold I set for myself and (the real genius) is that it reminds me how poorly I’m doing every time I push the button to see the time. This keeps me honest day-to-day and reminds me to do something after the office (if I haven’t before). Strava app works with the phone and is excellent for training – includes a heart rate monitor and GPS and many other bells and whistles. These are the current tools I suggest for my patients. Clay Hammett Med 98

Clay Hammett

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