May 26, 2014
Technology Stirs Motivation to Reach Everyday Health Goals
BY Mary Mahoney
I have talked about ground-breaking medical technology that can improve management of chronic illness and improve the odds of overcoming a life-threatening condition. Now, common technology is helping people manage their health habits by using gadgets and apps that monitor diet, exercise and sleep habits.
“The same industry that introduced Facebook and Angry Birds is now turning its attention to how technology can be applied to keep people healthy,” says Forbes in an article, “5 Ways Technology is Transforming Health Care.” Wearable wireless fitness devices have become a $330 million industry, according to NPD Group, a consumer research firm. These apps use social networking and gaming to motivate users to exercise more by competing with friends online.
A few standouts among the wearable devices that track walking, running and biking are UP by Jawbone and Nike+ Fuelband (“motivation on your wrist”) and Fitbit Ultra, which has an “altimeter sensor that knows when you’re climbing stairs.” All are mentioned in Computer World’s “Mobile Health Apps and Gadgets for Better (and Longer) Living.”
Some “wearables” offer two- or three-in-one features including the Apple iPod Nano (6th Generation) which combines a music player, pedometer and option to hook up to a cardio machine at the gym. The MOTOACTV by Motorola is a fitness watch with a GPS and digital music player that connects with heart-rate monitoring and bike sensors.
PC Magazine, in its article, “The Best Activity Trackers for Fitness,” awards its Editor’s Choice award for the best wrist-worn and “most interesting activity tracker on the market” to the Basis Carbon Steel Edition, which measures steps and calories burned, heart rate, skin temperature and sleep.
The wearables fitness market looks to be here for the long run. Facebook just announced its acquisition of a company that makes a fitness-tracking smart phone called Moves. Moves uses sensors in smartphones to track walking, biking and running, among many other uses. Facebook’s head of mobile, Erick Tseng said, “Wearables really come to life when you use them to connect to other people, not just collect data.”
For those who are more health and wellness-minded than fitness-minded, there is new technology that can also track sleep habits and count calories. Getting enough sleep and improving its quality have been a hot topic in recent years. The medical world has known that sleep plays a critical role to optimum health for heart, weight and mind, in addition to being beneficial for memory improvement, improving athletic performance, reducing inflammation and even living longer. Dozens of calorie-counting, food-monitoring and menu-tracking apps and monitors are out there to aid the diet-conscious and those on a quest for weight loss.
Here are a few of the apps and monitors that have received honorable mentions from the health and tech industries:
- Larklife will track “every step, snack and moment of sleep,” and after analyzing data, will offer suggestions on how to get better sleep and what and when to eat.
- Sleep Genius, developed with “neurosensory algorithms,” has been called a “game changer” in this market by Examiner.com in “Better Sleep May Be Your Best Incentive to Own Wearable Technology This Year.” It also has a great blog on sleep topics.
- Weight Watchers mobile was named in CNN’s article, “5 Fitness Apps That Actually Get Results.”
- Lose It! which features a barcode scanner, a recipe planner and database to track nutrients and calories, is the Daily News’ top pick in its article, “Top 6 Smartphone Apps for Losing Weight.”
Still, some are waiting for technology to take a step further. As some say, “Wearable tech is a work in progress” and that most devices are “adept at collecting data, but they fail to provide consumers with valuable health-related insights” to tangibly improve it. Industry analysts speculate that Apple will produce a smart watch and its “flag will be firmly planted in the terrain of wearable tech” by the end of 2014.
When you think of how far cell phones have come since they were introduced, it’s a safe bet that we have a lot to look forward to with wearable tech and apps to help us with our everyday health.