Multidimensional Physical Activity

25 February 2022

Physical activity is medicine, but are you doing enough?

Despite the multitude of associated health benefits, physical activity isn’t being used effectively in either prevention or treatment and the potential impact of this ‘wonder drug’ remains widely unfulfilled. In order to make physical activity an effective medication, just like with drugs, it must be the right type at the right dose – in short, it needs to be personalised. In order to make it personalised we need to overcome a widespread issue pertaining to our knowledge regarding physical activity.

On the whole, physical activity isn’t understood and neither are its benefits. Too often physical activity and exercise are used as interchangeable terms; people do not understand that any movement – no matter how small – is physical activity. In addition to this, a one-size-fits-all single approach to physical activity is often promoted, which tends to heavily centre around structured exercise and sport.

A prime example of this can be demonstrated by looking at the physical activity guidelines. Physical activity guidelines aim to provide a clear message about the right dose of activity focusing on a single message. The 2019 Physical Activity Guidelines for UK Adults recommend a minimum of 150 moderate-intensity or 75 vigorous-intensity minutes (or an equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity minutes) per week for substantial health benefit (Department of Health, 2019).

With ambiguous terminology that’s difficult to apply to your own lifestyle, it’s understandable that people find it hard to judge their physical activity status.

Wearable technology has created an opportunity for individual’s to accurately monitor their free-living physical activity, providing personalised information about both the intensity and duration of activity, but the availability of data 24/7 has highlighted a significant flaw in the guidelines – the focus on a single measure of physical activity to determine one’s level of physical activity.

Physical activity is multidimensional

In truth, physical activity is a far more heterogeneous behaviour, with multiple dimensions known to have clear biological and health benefits (Thompson and Batterham, 2013; Metcalfe et al., 2012; Department of Health, 2011a; Department of Health, 2011b; Healy et al., 2011; Tremblay et al., 2010; Lee et al. 2010; Helmerhurst et al., 2009; Burgomaster et al., 2008; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008; Healy et al., 2008; Rakobowchuk et al., 2008; Institute of Medicine, 2005; Brooks et al., 2004; Gibala, 2007; World Health Organisation [WHO], 2000).

This multidimensional view of physical activity is vital in allowing us to create an accurate assessment of an individual’s activity in the context of their health, and in enabling the development of bespoke strategies for behaviour change. Focusing on one dimension alone, like minutes of activity or the number of steps taken, creates a danger of developing a false picture of activity which may be detrimental to personal health outcomes.

The research, published in the Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews (click here for article), a journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, from our partners at the University of Bath shows robust evidence that personalised multidimensional physical activity profiling is crucial to providing an accurate assessment of an individual’s physical activity and for providing precise tailored advice. It is also integral to influencing successful behaviour change through greater understanding and offering activity choices tailored to an individual’s needs.

It is this in-depth understanding of physical activity, which is core to KiActiv®, and that which can help every individual – from commissioners, to clinicians, to patients themselves – to overcome the current knowledge barrier impacting on the effectiveness of physical activity as a medicine.

It is clear then that physical activity must now be taken seriously, for both its the role it can play as a therapy and as a risk factor for multiple chronic diseases. Realising this will enable us to move closer to the goal of sustainable healthcare. Technological innovation has allowed us to understand far more about physical activity than previously possible, and our suite of online tools, patented technology, and bespoke wearable device can now be used to help improve understanding and make physical activity an effective and accessible digital medicine for all.

Physical Activity as a Medicine

25 February 2022

Physical Activity – The Wonder Drug

Physical activity is proven to:

  • Lower your risk of premature death (USDHHS, 2008; Byberg et al., 2009; Samitz, Egger and Zwahlen, 2011; Wen et al., 2011), coronary heart disease (USDHHS, 2008; Fletcher et al., 1996), stroke (USDHHS, 2008; Hu et al., 2000), type-2 diabetes (WHO, 2009; USDDHS, 2008; Diabetes Prevention Program [DPP] Research Group, 2003; DPP Research Group, 2002; Sigal et al., 2006; Wei et al., 1999), hypertension (USDHHS, 2008; Barlow et al., 2006; Morris, 1994) and certain cancers (WHO, 2009; Knols et al., 2005; Holmes et al., 2005; Fong et al., 2012; Slattery and Potter, 2002).
  • Decrease feelings of depression and anxiety (Dunn et al., 2005).
  • Reduce obesity and aid weight management (USDHHS, 2008).
  • Improve functional health in the elderly and prevent falls (Blair, 2009; USDHHS, 2008; Department of Health, 2004).
  • Improve cognitive function (USDHHS, 2008: Larson et al., 2006), bone density (USDHHS, 2008) and sleep quality (USDHHS, 2008).

Alongside its role as a ‘wonder drug’, physical activity is also a major risk factor for preventable chronic diseases. Again, whilst it is shown to be as big a risk factor as hypertension or smoking for preventable chronic diseases, and is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, it is paid little attention. The body of evidence associated with these facts highlights the role that physical activity can play as a diagnostic tool, providing further information and insight into an individual’s current health status and future disease risk.

Physical inactivity causes disease – it is as much of a risk factor as hypertension and smoking for preventable chronic diseases (Myers et al., 2002; Lee and Paffenbarger, 1998; Lee, Hseih and Paffenbarger, 1995), but physical activity has never been given the same respect as medication to prevent and treat disease.

Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality (Murray et al., 2013) and is linked to the development of numerous chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, dementia, obesity, depression, and certain cancers (Brown et al., 2012; Royal College of Physicians, 2012; Department of Health, 2011; Samitz et al., 2011; Woodcock et al., 2011; Löllgen, Bickenhoff and Knapp, 2009; World Health Organisation, 2009; Nocon et al., 2008; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 2008; American College of Sports Medicine [ACSM], 2005; Bassuk and Manson, 2005 Brooks et al., 2004; Chakravarthy and Booth, 2004). In fact, being physically active is the single most important thing you can do for your health.

Physical Activity is a Powerful Diagnostic and Treatment Tool

Being physically active on a weekly basis:

  • Lowers your risk of:
    • Dying prematurely (USDHHS, 2008; Byberg et al., 2009; Samitz, Egger and Zwahlen, 2011; Wen et al., 2011).
    • Coronary heart disease (USDHHS, 2008; Fletcher et al., 1996).
    • Stroke (USDHHS, 2008; Hu et al., 2000).
    • Type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (WHO, 2009; USDDHS, 2008; Diabetes Prevention Program [DPP] Research Group, 2003; DPP Research Group, 2002; Sigal et al., 2006; Wei et al., 1999).
    • Hypertension (USDHHS, 2008; Barlow et al., 2006; Morris, 1994).
    • Adverse lipid profile (USDHHS, 2008).
    • Colon, breast and endometrial cancers (WHO, 2009; Knols et al., 2005; Holmes et al., 2005; Fong et al., 2012; Slattery and Potter, 2002).
    • Respiratory illnesses (Garcia-Aymerich et al., 2006).
    • Hip fractures (USDHHS, 2008).
  • Decreases feelings of depression and anxiety (Dunn et al., 2005).
  • Reduces abdominal obesity and helps in weight loss, weight maintenance and prevention of weight gain (USDHHS, 2008).
  • Prevents of falls and improves functional health for older adults (Blair, 2009; USDHHS, 2008; Department of Health, 2004).
  • Improves cognitive function (USDHHS, 2008: Larson et al., 2006).
  • Increases bone density (USDHHS, 2008).
  • Improves quality of sleep (USDHHS, 2008).

It is this significant body of scientific evidence that enables us to use physical activity as a diagnostic and treatment tool.