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Smartphone accelerometer sensors that capture data from a fitness tracker can determine the wearer's risk of death in the next five years. It only takes six minutes of daily walking for one week to calculate this risk.
The study was conducted at the University of Illinois by analyzing movement characteristics during walking analysis of 103,683 participants.
The researchers found that a person's gait speed – the time it takes them to walk a certain distance – is a predictor of mortality, and those with lower mortality had moderate or vigorous walking and were not sedentary.
“The predictive model relies on short-distance walking intensity being an effective surrogate for all-day activity intensity, as is the baseline assumption for walking tests,” the team shared in a study published in the journal PLOS.
Accelerometers in mobile devices detect the orientation of the smartphone, which allows it to also track human movements.
This technique is used by several apps such as MoveSpring and MyFitnessPal, which led scientists to speculate that the sensors could detect not only your physical activity, but also your likelihood of dying.
Subjects filled out questionnaires about their current health status, and then received the sensors to wear while walking for one week.
The team was able to successfully test predictive mortality risk models using as little as six minutes per day of continuous walking collected by the sensor, combined with traditional demographic characteristics.
The gait speed equivalent is the time it takes a person to walk a given distance on a flat surface for a short distance – calculated from these passively collected data, proved to be a predictor of five-year mortality regardless of age and gender.
Only walking intensity was used in predictive models to simulate smartphone monitors.
< br /> “Our results show that passive measurements with motion sensors can achieve the same accuracy as active measurements of gait speed and walking pace,” the authors of the study shared. Our scalable methods offer a real path to national health risk screening”.
Investigators' estimate of participants' future death was correct in 72% of cases in the first year and 73% in 5 years.
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