IT is the trendy gadget loved by tech-savvy fitness fans.
And since its launch in 2011, the Fitbit — a wristwatch-type device that tracks activity and sleep — has spawned countless rivals.
Now the NHS is planning to spend our taxes handing out similar devices for free — with plans to give away 5,000 in a £1.2million trial.
But there is a catch. To get one, you have to be obese and on the brink of developing Type 2 diabetes.
To some, the plan is an outrage — why don’t these people just get off their backsides and eat less?
Why should WE be giving them gadgets that we all want for Christmas?
It’s a fair point.
But look at it another way and this scheme — which includes nutrition and health advice, stress counselling and personal coaching sessions — could be one of the best investments the NHS has made in recent times.
Britain is the chubbiest nation in Western Europe and our inability to do anything about it is literally killing us.
Obesity is sending 150,000 people under the age of 75 to their deaths every year.
Four million of us have weight-related Type 2 diabetes and a further five million are at risk of developing it.
An Academy of Medical Royal Colleges report found that obese women are 13 times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. And an obese man is five times more likely to get bowel cancer.
Cases of liver disease have increased by 20 per cent in the past 20 years, mainly down to the rocketing obesity rate.
And around a third of cancers are said to be preventable if people take responsibility for their poor diets and lack of exercise.
Treating people suffering with fat-related diseases is costing the NHS an estimated £30billion annually. That is a quarter of its budget.
Government health messages and campaigns have so far failed and our waistlines are continuing to grow.
Just one in four of us manages to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day — the bare minimum the Government advises.
Junk food ads are still aired multiple times a day. And recent research revealed that kids who watch seven of these a week typically consume an additional 14,000 calories per year.
Many experts are sceptical of the proposed sugar tax on fizzy drinks — due to come into force next year — thinking it is unlikely to affect our size.
We could go some way to solving all this by simply moving more.
And Fitbit-style wristbands, which will monitor exercise, sleep quality and eating frequency, will help.
There is evidence to suggest they work. A recent study by Dutch and Spanish researchers found that users get “motivational value from seeing steps, styles and advice” as a result of using fitness trackers.
The same research found those who regularly tracked their activity and habits enjoyed the focus on goal fulfilment given to them by the devices.
Knowing how much you are moving in a day — and ensuring you continue to move — is quite literally the first step to improving your health.
Studies show walking for just 30 minutes per day lowers the chances of dementia, and regular exercise reduces the chance of a heart attack by 30 per cent.
There are a whole host of other benefits too, including improved mood, sleep and concentration. That is why the Government advocates taking 10,000 steps a day.
But that is not without its problems.
Indeed, most of us have no idea how far 10,000 steps is. It is actually about 90 minutes of solid walking.
By using a fitness tracker, obese patients will become more health-aware simply by knowing how much, or little, they have moved in a day.
Done fewer than your 10,000 steps? Hop off the bus a stop early and walk, or park in the space furthest from the supermarket entrance and carry your shopping to the car.
It really is that easy.
The device is also a cost-effective link to the world of exercise, with no flashy gym membership required.
Even on the High Street some basic devices sell for under £20. And you can bet anything the NHS hands out is likely to be significantly cheaper.
Health service figures show the outlay to be £240 a year for each of the 5,000 people taking part in the trial.
That sum would not even get you a consultation about a gastric band — never mind the op itself, the cost of which runs into thousands.
And that is ultimately what this is all about.
There is simply not enough money for medics to cope with the thousands of overweight patients who need treatment because of their size.
Something has got to give.
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