How Technology is Improving Health
Settling the debate: is technology healthy or unhealthy?
“Technology itself is neutral… It learns from us. So, the behaviors we expect from ourselves and those around us, as we leverage technology, will ultimately be reflected back at us” – Michael Dell was correct when he said that technology, just like controlled substances, isn’t inherently good or bad – it’s what we do with it that affects us either positively or negatively. Humanity has come a long way technologically and it’s up to us to mold tech to fit our goals, needs and aspirations – including those regarding our health.
Making technology work for humans
Whether it’s by limiting our use of technology or by applying it to the aspects of life where it could be most beneficial, there is no secret, one-size-fits-all approach to taking advantage of all it has to offer. Still, being aware of the possibilities tech provides is a step towards fully exploiting them.
1. Spending less time online
With the surge of total time spent online, be it on our work computers, personal laptops, or smartphones, a clear need to disconnect and spend more time connecting offline, has emerged. The solution? You guessed right, more tech to the rescue! Apps like Calm, Offline, and ClearLock notify us when we’ve been on our smartphones or certain apps for too long or when it’s time to go to bed, in accordance with one’s optimal sleeping cycle.
2. Connecting with others offline
Although popular belief asserts that social media is making us anti-social, apps like Meetup, Eventbrite and Bumble help connect people with common interests online and offline (through group events or 1:1 meetings). As long as users ultimately meet in person, these apps are useful at building networks and relationships vital to our health and the human longing for connection.
3. Working out more
In today’s busy world, fitting in a gym or a yoga class visit can be a challenging feat. What if you could skip the visit and work out at home whenever it suits you, saving you time and providing flexibility? Workout and fitness apps like Sworkit, Fitbod and DoYouYoga can help you get an intensive workout from the comfort of your home or office, requiring little more than your body weight and a bottle of water. The popularity of these apps continues to grow as home workout enthusiasts discover how time-saving they can be.
Many wellness apps also track daily movement, promoting higher activity levels through setting calorie burning or sport goals and providing encouragement regularly.
4. Relaxing, sleeping and meditating better
Meditation-related apps that help us breathe better, relax better, and sleep better are now rife on the Apple and Google app stores. Apps like Headspace, 10% Happier, and Omvana aim to make us more mindful of our thoughts, mental and physical needs, all while helping us increase focus, improve memory, and reduce stress. Sleep tracking apps like SleepCycle can also inform us of the most optimal times to go to bed and wake up, helping us get into more optimal sleeping habits.
5. Detecting and preventing disease in a timelier manner
From heart rate and blood pressure tracking apps like Elite HRV and Qardio to collecting and analyzing big health data to help find cures for chronic diseases, health tech can enable sizeable advances in disease management and treatment. From detection to prevention, apps, IoT sensors and smart watches have the potential to improve our quality of life, health and longevity.
Corporate health empowerment through tech
Healthier, fitter, more relaxed employees also perform better, get sick less frequently, and are more motivated to succeed at their jobs. With burnout now officially recognized as a medical condition by the World Health Organization, more corporations are realizing the need to help employees achieve a better work-life balance that inspires them to explore their passions, hobbies and interests outside of the office. This starts with fostering employee health (both physical and mental) and well-being at the office.
While productivity and connectivity apps and platforms allow teams to be more effective and better connected, technology can also be applied to employer-sponsored corporate health initiatives. The latter can include something as simple as having contests for the highest number of steps taken around the office building to sponsoring group fitness events like running, cycling or triathlon races. Going further, health-dedicated organizations can offer employees virtual fitness classes (cycling, yoga, strength training, tai-chi, etc.) in unused meeting or storage rooms. This initiative doesn’t require a significant budget as no human instructors are needed to lead classes.
Finally, apps and websites can be used to track the caloric value of lunch and snack items offered in the company cafeteria. Electronic labels can also be utilized to inform canteen visitors of the nutritional value of each item, along with the allergens it contains.
Awareness is the key to changing behaviors and lifestyles to improve health, nutrition, and well-being, while technology can be a strong ally in achieving these goals.