As Under Armour's Mike Lee recently said, we're moving to the "what next" phase of fitness tracking where step counting just won't cut it anymore. While a good way of gamifying fitness, the one-size-fits-all approach of counting steps means it's not the most effective way to get fit, even if it's good at getting you moving a little more than you normally would. Plus, 10,000 steps a day might sound fine in theory, but it's not attainable for everybody. We're also seeing heart rate monitors becoming standard on fitness trackers, but even then there's often still a question over what to do with that data.
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Enter PAI, a new fitness-tracking method introduced by Mio. PAI stands for Personal Activity Intelligence, and was inaugurated by Mio's Slice tracker at the start of year. As the name suggested, it's about applying fitness metrics in a way that's personal to each user.
To calculate your score, your age, gender, resting heart rate and maximum heart rate, must first be taken into account. From there, it's all about analysing your heart rate over time. The aim is to keep your PAI score at least 100, and by taking heart rate into account it can see if you're really pushing yourself - and not just ticking off an arbitrary number of steps. The PAI index is accumulated over a seven-day period, so it gets quite a clear snapshot of where you are and where you need to be.
It seems obvious when you think about it. You may walk 1,000 steps over the course of a day, but if it's taken little exertion to reach that goal then you probably don't deserve that celebratory muffin after all. On the other hand, you may walk fewer steps in a day but they're taken over a more challenging incline that gets your heart racing much faster.
Or you might take on another exercise in lieu of steps entirely, which actually proves to be more physically exerting. Your tracker tells you off for coming in under target, but in fact you've done more good for yourself than you would have done by hitting the big 10,000.
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"Managing your PAI score helps you to reduce your risk of lifestyle-related diseases," said Ulrik Wisløff, professor at the faculty of medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, back in January. Put simply, it helps you live healthier for longer."
Importantly, your PAI is personal to you; step goals often aren't. PAI is based on a long-term study called the Hunt Study, which took place over the course of 20 years and found that resting heart rate can predict cardiovascular health. Keeping a PAI score over 100 can help with weight loss, reduce the risk of some diseases, and add years to your life - up to 10 years if you're under 50.
And it's flexible, as we all know that sticking to the same routine is difficult. It also also won't push you above what you're capable of, which is important too. Right now Mio's PAI feature works by downloading the PAI app from the Apple App Store of Google Play and pairing it with one of their wearables. Hopefully, we'll see it in other fitness wearables before long.