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Physiomics: What your physical activity data says about your health

If you’ve got a Fitbit, Apple Watch or another wearable activity tracker you probably invested in the little gadget because you’re interested in some aspect of your physiome. Or maybe you received a fitness tracker over the holidays and are wondering how to make the most use of it. The physiome is the sum of your daily activity (and inactivity); time spent sitting, standing, moving; your vital signs like heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure; and your sleep – both how much you get and the quality of it.

“But you don’t even have to monitor this actively proactively,” says Steven Tucker, an oncologist with a focus on precision medicine. “The fact is, it’s being tracked on your devices.” That’s right. You may have never checked it, but your smartphone most likely already counts the steps you take and the stairs you climb and records your less healthy habits, too. It knows when you sit all day or stay up all night.

“Nowadays, smartphones have well over a dozen different sensors,” says Tucker, “and the data they track can all be tied to a different behavior.”

But, who cares how many steps you take or stairs you climb in a day? Or how many hours you sleep at night? Well, if you don’t already, you may consider the benefits. It’s no secret that increasing physical activity can lower risk for weight- and lifestyle-related diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Studies show that physical activity plays a role in your risk for some cancers, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, too. The same is true of sleep. Research suggests that trouble sleeping – which includes both getting to sleep and staying asleep – is tied to a higher risk for dementia. Too little sleep also raises the risk of obesity, diabetes and other weight- and lifestyle-related conditions.

All of this physiome data won’t do you much good locked up in your phone unseen. If you look at it though, you may feel motivated to start making changes. Tracking activity can inspire us to keep moving. If you have plans to exercise on a given day, now you have a friendly reminder around your wrist or in your pocket – of whether you’ve reached that goal. You can set concrete goals, such as taking those 10,000 steps a day, and always know how just how many more steps you have to go. You could become that person who always parks at the back of the lot just to get a few extra steps. Further, research has shown that we currently know very little about an individual’s health benefit per step i.e., are 10,000 steps right for you based on the benefits you seek? New studies could help fill in the gaps of how your steps and other physiome factors play into your overall health. Imagine if you could get the equivalent of real-time step count recommendations based on your age, activity level, injuries, health conditions and fitness goals?

The data in your phone or wearable device could also simply give you a better sense of your health status. “It’s like if you skid off the road unexpectedly, you might want to look back at the way you’ve been driving,”  says Tucker.  “Maybe it wasn’t as unexpected as you thought. That’s what it’s like with your health. When you get sick, maybe there were a variety of things that you could have done on a regular basis that could have lowered your odds of getting sick.”

New studies are constantly adding to the list of health conditions that physical activity, sleep quality, and other physiome factors can affect. It’s data from the activity trackers and smartphones of people like you that power those studies.

When you connect your physiome data to, it lives in one place with all your other health data – like test results and genetic information. It gives you a place to own and manage this data. With your permission, your data can also contribute to medical research and earn points to redeem on Amazon. As more people like you connect their data with, researchers can conduct their studies more quickly, more efficiently, and less expensively. Over time and as more people participate, we’ll be able to bring notifications back to you in the form of personalized insights about your health. Because your information is all in one place, A.I. can analyze the complete picture of your health and share new discoveries that can help keep you at your best. Try out the app today, or share with a friend to check out your physiome data and help accelerate research.

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