UCL researchers used BetterPoints data to discover over-65s were more physically active than other age groups during lockdown
A team from University College London (UCL) used BetterPoints tracking data to analyse the effect of the first UK lockdown on physical activity levels across age groups.
The research found that older people maintained higher levels of physical activity than their younger counterparts during the first lockdown and were quicker to increase physical activity as lockdown eased, as reported in the Times and in the Daily Mail. It is therefore important, the research concludes, that measures to support people back into healthy activity post-lockdown are tailored to different groups.
One of the advantages of using smartphone-tracked data on physical activity is that exercise patterns can be analysed over time without relying on self-report. “It is very hard for individuals to accurately recall weekly minutes of physical activity even within recent timeframes (such as the last 7 days), let alone recalling physical activity prior to COVID-19 restrictions”, say the researchers. This data can then be used to target different groups with incentives and messaging that will be most effective in encouraging them to increase their physical activity.
The app uses proprietary algorithms to combine data from the phone’s chipsets (motion sensors, accelerometers, built-in classifiers etc) with additional data pertaining to speed, global positioning system (GPRS) data, and various map data sources to classify activity types automatically. These activities can then be rewarded based on various metrics such as time, distance and frequency.
The research team is currently looking at data collected during the ongoing lockdown for further insights into physical activity trends. In particular, how incentives can be used to encourage people to take regular daily exercise outside as well as exercising at home and using online exercise resources.
The research was co-authored by Hannah McCarthy, MA, Henry W W Potts, BA, MSc, PhD, and Abigail Fisher, BSc, PhD. Hannah McCarthy works for BetterPoints but is also studying for a doctorate at UCL. The study’s other authors have no financial connection to BetterPoints. The company only shared anonymized data in line with privacy and data protection laws as approved by the UCL Ethics Committee and did not provide input into the study design, results, or analysis of the research.
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