British Columbia

Fitness trackers need to step off when it comes to counting steps, entrepreneur says

Vancouver's MIO Global manufactures a competitor to the widely-used Fitbit that measures heart rate instead of steps, which the company argues is a better measure of physical activity.

Vancouver company argues heart rate a better measure of activity than steps

MIO Global's personal fitness tracker is demonstrated in a still form a promotional video. The tracker measures heart rate, which the company says is a better measure of activity than step counting. (mioglobal.com)

Wearable fitness trackers have become very popular, but a Vancouver company says merely counting steps is not enough to get fit.

MIO Global manufactures a competitor to the widely-used Fitbit that measures heart rate instead of steps, a metric which the company argues is a better measure of physical activity.

"If you're counting a step, there's no qualification of the quality of that step," founder Liz Dickinson told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko.

"If I climb Grouse Mountain and get over 5,000 steps, should I get the same or less credit than someone who does 10,000 steps back and forth from the water cooler?"

Dickinson says her company has worked with researchers in Norway on a fitness tracker that measures PAI points, (meaning Personal Activity Intelligence) which they say correlates with lower mortality.

The idea is to keep your PAI score, measured with a smartphone app, at 100 every day to ensure optimal fitness.

Dickinson says PAI scoring is a better way of managing activity because it records the intensity of all physical activity all day, not just steps. It might come from day-to-day activities playing with children or doing chores around the house.

"Whatever motion or activity you're doing, you just step it up a little bit," she said. "People get that feedback and they start to feel better because it's actually having a cardiovascular effect."

She says her company is in discussions with other makers of wearable fitness trackers to make PAI point tracking part of their offerings and has designed an app for the Apple Watch.

She expects that app to be available in May.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast


To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Fitness trackers need to step off when it comes to counting steps, entrepreneur says

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