“Exercise” as a concept can be hard to wrap your head around – how much is enough? How do you know you’re doing it correctly? And how do you begin? Fortunately, a new app promises to put older adults on the right path. By walking just ten blocks (roughly one kilometer) per day, app users will meet their daily activity goals; they’ll also find the support, tools and tips they need to keep going.
Walk10Blocks was a collaborative effort inspired by the research of Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose (Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health and the Centre for Hip Health & Mobility) and Dr. Linda Li (Arthritis Research Canada). The idea to develop an app as a way of driving awareness around the cognitive and joint health benefits of walking – and to use mobile technology to collect research data in a new way – came from Knowledge User Team lead Arthritis Consumer Experts, and its partners, the Alzheimer Society of BC, and the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.
Scientific guidance from Drs. Liu-Ambrose and Li, along with leading physiotherapy researchers, and digital tech leadership from the Centre for Digital Media, ensured that the Walk10Blocks app was not only user friendly, but would help advance research into cognitive and joint health in a meaningful way.
“Our advice to start with ten blocks is meant to give people a concrete first step, so to speak, towards daily physical activity,” says Dr. Liu-Ambrose. “We wanted to give users a straightforward goal to start, which they would be able to confidently build on. Research shows that walking just ten blocks per day can have neuroprotective benefits as many as nine years later – Walk10Blocks makes it easy to take the first steps toward improved cognition and joint and cardiovascular health.”
“The magic ingredients of the Walk10Blocks app project are its user driven conceptualization and design paired with hard science,” says Cheryl Koehn, Founder and President of Arthritis Consumer Experts, Canada’s largest arthritis patient organization. “The Walk10Blocks app is the first that uses Apple’s ResearchKit platform and pairs user-designed features with a research study, giving the user health benefits long after the study is concluded. I think that’s a really important part of this project: helping sedentary people start walking and practicing healthy behaviour.”
Recent research from Dr. Liu-Ambrose showed that exercising – including walking – just three hours per week may help preserve memory function in older adults with existing cognitive impairments.
This research was made possible through funding from Improving Cognitive & jOint health Network (ICON), a CIHR knowledge translation catalyst network.