Our CEO Adam explores the role of technology in health and fitness, and muses what its increasing importance means for all of us going forwards.
As we all know, in the past decade, the popularity of technology within the health, wellness and fitness sphere has exploded due to the growth in mobile technology – we spend, on average 4-5 hours per day on our smartphones, with more internet time being spent on our phones than any other type of device. But is this new obsession good for our health? Is the growth in technology in health & wellness actually contributing to positive results, or does it hinder our ability to live healthy lives?
Growth in tracking devices, but do they help?
A good place to start is the giant growth within tracking devices and apps, that help you track everything from heart-rates, to calories, to sleep patterns (and god knows what else). The point of them is to track your activity to ensure you stay on course to meet your goals, and motivated to hit your daily targets, be it steps taken, calories reduced, etc.
But does a tracking device make you healthier? Will monitoring every aspect of your heart rate, and steps per day be more effective than a tailored fitness routine, or targeted HIIT workouts? There seems to be an almost unhealthy obsession with the data we receive and analyse from those devices and apps, both on a physical level and a social level.
Devices cannot appreciate the uniqueness of our bodies, and what would work for us under our own circumstances like a qualified, top quality trainer or teacher. Apps can’t precisely understand what nutrition works best for your situation. Plus, the obsession over numbers and data can have an adverse effect on living a healthy, happy lifestyle. When has it been healthier to add, analyse, and track tons of data, than to actually go out and enjoy your exercise activities that are geared to your goals – exercise is about giving yourself mental and physical nourishment; chronicling and tracking every second of it can lead to demotivating you from actually going out to enjoy and improve your body. Personally, I believe tracking devices and apps should be left to elite athletes pushing for excellence, not for general health improvements.
Online workouts and plans?
There has also been large growth in the use of video and content online to guide us through everything from workouts, to meditation to how we should eat. We also use quality content at MagnaPass in our Workplace packages, as it has so many positive aspects to it. From being guided through meditation and yoga, to following a tailored nutrition plan (without counting every calorie!) and even mental health guidance; following this type of technology can lead to behaviour becoming increasingly healthier.
There has also been a steady growth in the use of augmented reality (AR) with regards to healthy behaviour – Pokemon Go led to people seeing notable increases with their levels of physical activity due to gamification of AR – there can be huge potential with up-and-coming technology in the near future.
The quality of content and improvements in AR are making leaps forward with improving your wellness, but there are some pitfalls. For example, it seems for every good piece of content out there, there are 3 or 4 bad pieces of content mainly geared towards purchasing a product (which is probably terrible for you), or the ‘life-saving plan’ that you must purchase for £99. Unfortunately, people do fall for it. There is a lack of personalisation, geared towards individual goals, lifestyles, and bodies with generalised content (especially from low-quality teachers), as well as a lack of technique building which is essential in any fitness plan. You will also not get the same experience of a community feel from a good quality expert, as well as a lack of suitable facilities needed to meet your goals.
Online content, overall, can be great for specific activities that are tailored to you, that do not require a gyms-worth of facilities, so there is a benefit to this technology to be used towards a healthier lifestyle. Crucially however the experience can be limited to what your surroundings are, and you must be careful not to be ushered in to the wide array of misinformation out there.
Does the tech experience match real world communities?
Is digital technology worth the hype? Is the ‘old fashioned’ way of doing things still the best? There has been huge growth in digital detoxing, where, in an aim to reduce stress and develop ‘real world’ connections, you refrain from using digital devices and reduce screen time for a certain time period. With 3 out of 5 people admitting they spend more time with devices than their partners, the need to let go every now and then has never been so prevalent. Relating this to fitness and wellness, it’s quite difficult to conceive where you’d get the same level of technique training and intensity as you would with a specialist face to face. The nutritional aspect and basic plans may be suitable for online based training, but nothing beats the tailored advice, technique improvement and intensity that you’d get with a trainer, yogi, or sports coach in the real world.
This experience doesn’t stop there – with MagnaPass, we love the use of fitness classes to try new things and have a sense of community. This is even more important when trying to create a greater culture within workplaces – it allows your team to get away from a screen and allows them to take a quick time-out from the working world to focus on themselves, alongside the group of individuals that form the culture of the workplace. This has numerous benefits, mainly in stress relief, productivity increase and even people retention & positive employer branding.
Good Technology Experiences
There are other developments in technology that are proving to be successful in enabling a healthier lifestyle. An increase in the use of ergonomic desks means less sitting down for 8 hours straight, and less hunching over a computer; sitting is being considered as the new smoking, as a sedentary work lifestyle can have serious impacts to your long term health.
Smart water bottles have also taken on its new craze, as it takes on the plastic bottle health concerns with hormone disruptive chemicals, such as BPA and Phthalates – growth in reusable technology (and it has to be said, good marketing) within reusable products are used to fuel a healthy lifestyle at work, and can reiterate a health conscious from within especially when encouraging the use of them in the workplace.
The take away from this is moderation. The use of technology is good for monitoring and basic programmes, but the trick is to not get too obsessed and to take a step back every once in a while. Online coaching and plans work for specific things if tailored correctly, but nothing can beat a personal experience, either 1-on-1 or within a community. When improving culture within the workplace nothing beats a good sense of shared, real world activity.