Creating the first all-in-one, high-engagement solution for prescribing, assessing and recalibrating physical activity for sedentary people

Societal Context

The WHO estimates that 25% of European adults and 80% of European adolescents are insufficiently active*, not regularly engaging in the recommended levels of physical activity. The negative health consequences of such a sedentary lifestyle are significant. Even individuals within the normal weight range who do not achieve the recommended levels of physical activity are at significantly increased risk of developing cancer, type II diabetes and heart disease and of dying prematurely. Inactivity is the fourth-leading risk factor for all global deaths.

Across Europe, inactivity contributes more than 500,000 deaths to annual mortality figures. Many of these deaths could be averted by enabling and encouraging all Europeans to engage in lifestyles that achieve the recommended levels of physical activity. EU member states are taking this issue seriously and have recently defined a European Physical Activity Strategy plan for 2016–2025, aimed at promoting physical activity and reducing sedentary behaviour.

Inactivity costs the EU-28 at least €80.4 billion per year in the form of additional cases of four major non-communicable diseases (coronary heart disease, type II diabetes, and colorectal and breast cancer) and through the indirect costs of inactivity-related mood and anxiety disorders. This economic burden is set to rise in the future, with a conservative estimate of more than €125 billion (in 2012 prices) annually by 20301.
Lack of physical activity is due to societal, economic and psychological factors including:

  • Healh professionals (doctors, clinicans) are motivated to prescribe physical activities but they don’t know where their patients could do it with safety and with performant coaching
  • Sites for physical activity (fitness centers, heath clubs, coaching studios) lacking the knowledge and tools to effectively coach sedentary people who want to initiate physical activity
  • A rapid drop-off in motivation, with the people who begin a physical activity returning to a sedentary lifestyle after an average of three months.

There is a booming industry in coaching solutions for inactivity, with more than 100 million people using self-trackers such as the world-leading Fitbit device and app. However, none of these existing solutions employ an individualized coaching method, and their actual results in health improvement are usually poor. Personalization is key in achieving effective results, by maintaining a high level of motivation among app users and retaining a higher proportion of them over time. Current wearable devices do not sufficiently personalize the user experience, and most consumers stop using them after the first three weeks. The most popular of the devices currently on the market (Apple Watch, Samsung Gear S, Fitbit, Jawbone, Mysfit) do not allow for holistic personal assessment, only providing generic guidelines and monitoring discrete physical activities.

Global recommendations on physical activity for health

Objectives of the project

In "uPulse Health", ESPHI aims to develop the first sensor-based fitness solution to automate the creation of personalized training programs which are tailored to each user’s real physical abilities and performance. The technology will take self-tracker apps to the next level by drawing on physiological and biomechanical models which can analyze any type of physical activity during both training and body assessments. The project will target these key objectives:

  • Improvement of the sensor design and mesh communication protocol (The sensor should weigh less than 10 grams and measure smaller than 10cm2 while including an acceloremeter, an ECG, and a magnetometer. The mesh communication protocol will be BLE Mesh and/or Zigbee.)
  • Implementation of data in the BODYSCORING application v2.0 (relation with health specialist?)
  • Development of a library of training programs including:
    • Collective training
    • Special program for sedentary people new to physical activity
    • Special program adapted to specific health issues (diabetes, obesity, hypertension)
  • Development of the coaching application (This will include more gamification of the follow-up and results on the user side, and more coaching features on the coach side.)
  • Production of a fully-validated, ready-to-market uPulse "uPulse Health" (This will enable the automated monitoring of collective training and also be adapted to more sedentary users.)
  • Measurement of the health and other benefits of "uPulse Health" (This will include results for users with specific health complications such as diabetes or cardiovascular conditions.)
  • Pilot test of the new features targeted at sedentary users (by 400-500 people)
  • Prescription of "uPulse Health" by health professionals to combat a sedentary lifestyle
  • Commercialization of prototypes to create a community of early-adopters

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