Techno + Health: The Future Is Here

Due to a hectic and stressful travel schedule over the last few months, I had stopped working out. Missing the gym coupled with poor eating habits and stress was contributing to my expanding waistline. Two months into the New Year, I still had my New Year resolution of losing the extra pounds but I did not know where to start. As I started looking for a solution to my quandary, I discovered some startling facts about the impact of lack of exercise, stress, and unhealthy diet on people around the world. According to the World Health Organization by 2015, approximately 2 billion to 3 billion adults will be overweight and more than 700 million will be obese across the world . Studies estimate the total cost of obesity to U.S. employers – including lost productivity – at $73 billion a year,  NPR reported.

Afraid of becoming a statistic, I decided to look for ways using technology to get my regimen back on track (techno+health). I identified the key barriers holding me back (inertia, boredom, and jet lag) and then looked for ways in which technology could help me overcome these barriers. Summarized below are my early attempts to overcome these barriers:

1. Overcoming inertia: Losing weight/body fat is a simple equation – burn more calories than you eat. However, our brains are hardwired for short-term gains so whenever we start a diet on exercise programs it seems to be attractive at first but gets routine and we give up. Moreover, it takes time for exercise and diet regimes effects to kick in and without feedback it is very hard for a lot of people to continue. This is where technology comes to the rescue. Simple accelerometer based devices such as “Fitbit” that can be worn like a pedometer continually provide feedback about calories burnt, floors climber, etc., via an iPhone and web-based dashboard (see right), thus making it easier to see the results of my hard work during the day.

2. Getting social: Exercising in the gym and running are both lonely sports. In the absence of a personal trainer or running buddy it is very hard for me to motivate myself to run or lift weights, even though I know the benefits of both activities. A few years ago, Nike made running social with Nike +, a simple device in your shoe that allows you to track your run and connects to a community of runners around the world. Smartphone apps like iMapMyRun and Gym Buddy has made it possible for me to share my efforts with my social network thus giving me the additional motivation to keep going!

3. Beating jet lag: My work involves frequent trips across time zones, thus making jet lag my mortal enemy. I tried taking melatonin and sleeping pills, which gave me temporary relief from my condition. Once again technology came to my rescue and I discovered an app called “JetLag Fighter” from Virgin Atlantic. Just by inputting my flight arrival and departure details, I can get a customized plan to accelerate acclimatization into the new time zone. To monitor my sleep patterns and get them back on track, I use a sleep monitor called LARK that helps me track my sleep patterns and also wakes me up gently in the morning, all through a band on my wrist connected to a smartphone app.

Techno+health can be an enabler in our quest to maintain well being. The challenge is in adopting a disciplined approach with exercise and diet and using technology to stay on track. My phone is beeping… time to hit the gym!

Related reading

A QR code which leads to the URL for the ClickZ article about QR codes. Meta.