On April 28, Chinmay Manohar, research engineer in the endocrinology, nutrition and diabetes department of US health center the Mayo Clinic presented his team's improved mobile phone application that promotes daily physical activity at Experimental Biology 2010 in Anaheim, California.

Manohar realized heavier people move less and decided the new device would have to promote daily physical activity and developed Walk nPlay, a free iPhone application that monitors physical activity throughout the day based on height and weight. It turns healthy stats into a competition where you can compete against a computer as your activity is charted and scored.

The Walk nPlay also has the ability to detect very low speeds (0.8km/h) of movement, not always captured by pedometers and other devices.

"You have to put an element of fun into the whole thing to encourage people to be more active," Manohar said, "we put people into a gaming mind-set and people unknowingly do exercise and have fun doing it."

One of the most important things that helps people stick to a fitness routine is a friend or support network. The Walk nPlay was also modified to incorporate social networking where you can compete with friends and random opponents around the world, plus tweet your performance status.

Health and gaming will also be featured at the sixth annual Games for Health Conference May 25-27 in Boston. For more information, go to: http://www.gamesforhealth.org

Full study, "Laboratory evaluation of the accuracy of a triaxial accelerometer embedded into a cell phone platform for measuring physical activity": http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/24/1_MeetingAbstracts/1044.5