Do You Walk Enough?

This is an easy, passive way to find out.
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Walking is good for you. 

The American Heart Association says "the simplest, positive change you can make to effectively improve your heart health is to start walking." For starters, they suggest exercising 150 minutes a week. 

The problem is—how do you know if you're walking enough? What's your baseline? 

I've limned my personal struggles with this before, but I have a tendency to spend all day in front of a computer, then pop outside for a quick run and consider my cardiovascular-health job to be done. 

I could keep records of my walking with a pen and paper. I could mark the days on a calendar with when I walked and how far. I could wear an activity tracker, too, those popular wrist bands that passively track my body's motion. 

But let's be honest: I'm not gonna actively keep these records. I'm just not that type of person. And in my experience, activity trackers often break.

Enter the iPhone 5S* with its M7 co-processor and the Runkeeper app. The M7 collects accelerometer data, which lets it measure how far you've walked, and Runkeeper's "Pocket Track" feature organizes that data. It tallies up the time, miles, and pace, sticking it on the same calendar that shows my runs.

Even when I took a break from tracking my runs—which are in green here—Pocket Track kept passively collecting data on my walking habits. 

Perhaps tracking apps like this alone won't solve America's cardiovascular crisis alone—we'll need changes in our city structures, food systems, and work lives to do that—but they're a start. They let us know how far we have to go.

 

* While this technology is only currently embedded in the high-end Apple phone, it's safe to assume that within the next year or two, it'll be in all phones.

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Presented by

Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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