British Columbia

'Dead-simple' UBC app pushes people to walk for dementia research - and their health

The "dead simple" app is meant to encourage people to get up and move around at least once a day.

'This is really, really basic ... This is not an app for the high-performance walker or athlete'

People should be walking about a kilometre a day, researchers say. (David Horemans/CBC News)

A new app developed at the University of British Columbia is encouraging people to get up and walk — and help with health research at the same time.

"Walk 10 Blocks" pushes adults to walk about a kilometre every day. By registering on the app, users agree to participate in UBC research on dementia, joint and cardiovascular health.

Cheryl Koehn, founder of Athritis Consumer Experts, said the program differs from other fitness add-ons because it's "incredibly basic."

"This is not an app for the high-performance walker or athlete," Koehn said. "This targets sedentary people; people who've had a tremendously difficult time [getting up].

"It really is just dead-simple to use, and it's fun."

Koehn said developers surveyed potential users before creating the app and found that most adults just wanted something easy.

Walking helps dementia patients: study

In October, a UBC study showed regular walks helped lower cognitive impairment among seniors.

Researchers looked at elderly people suffering from vascular cognitive disorder — the second-leading cause of dementia — and found that those who walked for an hour three days a week showed signs of improvement.

Teresa Liu-Ambrose, who conducted the study, said walking is one of the best treatments out there.

An hour of walking three times a week can help to reduce cognitive impairment in the early stages of dementia among the elderly. (Shutterstock)

"Right now, there is no effective drug therapy for those individuals with cognitive issues," Liu-Ambrose told CBC last fall.

"Based on our research as well as research of others, I do think recommending and supporting the uptake of exercise is a sensible approach."

Koehn, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, feels the same way.

Her disease is marked by joint inflammation that gets worse with inactivity.

"For the longer periods I sit, the more the inflammation pools and the stiffer I get," Koehn explained. "The thing that hurts me [ie: walking], is the thing that helps me."

With files from The Early Edition