Monitoring Mobility: How Smartphones Could Make Tracking Your Health More Accessible

There is an increasingly vital need to make health tracking tools more accessible, especially for older adults. One aspect of health that is important for older adults to monitor is lower-extremity strength and mobility, which is essential for daily activities such as initiating walking or rising from a chair. A metric called sit-to-stand (STS) time can help monitor lower-extremity performance. However, many STS time measurement methods involve using expensive tools such as force plates and video motion systems in a laboratory or clinical setting. To address this lack of accessibility, a study that won a Bronze 2022 Innovative Research on Aging Award explored how individuals could use a smartphone to measure STS time. 

In order to test how a smartphone would perform in measuring STS time compared to other established methods, these researchers recruited 20 older adults to participate in an STS task that involved standing from a seated position at varying speeds. The participants’ STS times were simultaneously measured using a smartphone accelerometer, a force plate, and a video motion system. The researchers found that using a smartphone to measure STS time was clinically equivalent to using the two already validated (but more expensive) methods. This indicates that smartphones could be a potentially more accessible, convenient, and cost-effective way to measure STS time and monitor lower-extremity performance. 

This smartphone method was laboratory-tested on just 20 individuals, all of whom had strong lower-extremity performance. To ensure this method could apply to a broad range of people and settings, this research should be tested on a larger group of individuals with a wide range of abilities, and be tested by individuals using their own devices at home instead of only in a laboratory setting. Even given these limitations, this research may provide a more accessible method to track a vital aspect of health. 

 

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Source:  

Song, Y., Begum, M., Arthanat, S., & LaRoche, D. P. (2022). Validation of smartphone accelerometry for the evaluation of sit-to-stand performance and lower-extremity function in older adults. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 30(1), 3–11. https://doi.org/10.1123/japa.2020-0428 

 

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