App active: Encourage patients to move with mobile app sharing


No one asked me to walk from Louis Armstrong International Airport to New Orleans' Central Business District, but I traversed the distance anyway.

Okay, I need to clarify. I didn't actually saunter down the shoulder of I-10; I marched the equivalent expanse over three days in the course of my reporting duties this week at HIMSS13.

According to the free pedometer app on my iPhone, I walked 15.7 miles from the start of business on March 3 until I reached my hotel room on the evening of March 5. The most strenuous day was March 4, when I traipsed 13,518 steps for a total of 6.9 miles, burning 717 calories in the process. (Not included in the calculations: a conservative carrying load of 10 pounds worth of computer equipment and personal belongings.)

No wonder the "Comfort Gel" packets embedded in the innersoles of my dress shoes blew out at some point along the way.

All that being said, my point is not to elicit sympathy for the intrepid reporter. It's quite the opposite. I want to communicate, firsthand, the satisfaction I felt upon realizing that I'd put in a stealth workout while going about my normal activities. Absent the mobile app, I wouldn't even have thought about daily exercise in the midst of the year's most hectic workweek.

As a bonus, I recognized a bit of an offset for that monster po' boy I ate at Mother's on Monday night.

So, based on my Big Easy experience, I'd like to pass along a recommendation to my physician friends. The next time you're sitting across from a patient who needs a nudge when it comes to physical activity, consider scrolling through a few mobile apps together. Most are free or available at nominal cost. Chances are you'll find one or two that may help the patient get a sense of what's possible in working toward better health.

As in my case, the benefits of exercise should become more apparent – even with no change in regular routine. The patient may start to feel more empowered as his or her own "health czar." It seems simple, but in some ways monumental -- the first step on the journey toward well-being.