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Wired for Wellness: How Technology Can Support Healthy Lifestyles
Posted by Maureen Scullin Jun 20, 2014 11:54:00 AMinfographic

Whether through a wearable device like Fitbit®, an app such as MyFitnessPal®, or an online program like Lighten Up 4 Life®, wellness and technology have merged. ABI Research, a technology market research firm, estimates that the number of wearable devices with health-related apps will reach 93 million worldwide by 2017 (the figure was a paltry 16 million in 2011). That staggering growth in a single tech segment represents a broader market shift. Today, users aren’t exclusively health enthusiasts; now they’re people who want to drop five or ten pounds, shape up for a wedding, or keep up with the grandkids.

And as the healthcare industry focuses more closely on wellness outreach and population health management initiatives, the potential for personal technology to support positive lifestyle changes shouldn’t be ignored. At the very least, devices, apps, and online programs augment a range of complementary community wellness resources; at the most, they can serve as primary drivers behind individual behavior change. Here’s how:

Technology connects us with a community. Health-related apps and online wellness programs that have a social component connect us with a like-minded community. In a way that hard data can’t, these groups provide important “soft” social data. Tips and tricks, success stories, and ongoing support link users to a culture of health that not only
creates a level of accountability, it can offer encouragement at pivotal moments.

Technology delivers relevant and immediately useful information. From the quality of our sleep to the calories in our lunch, technology helps us understand our bodies, our habits, and the realities of our world. Taking the guesswork out of certain aspects of health and wellness empowers users to customize programs that provide the greatest benefit. For example, on days when we have a heavier lunch than planned, we can see exactly what the caloric impact is, understand how many minutes at the gym we’ll need to add, or compensate in other ways. Data drives informed decision-making — and that drives success.

Tech tools are the figurative ‘strings around our fingers.’ Smartphones are a ubiquitous part of our culture and activity tracking devices literally become part of our wardrobe. By design, these and other components of our tech world follow us wherever we go and become constant health reminders that are integrated into our lives. Discipline becomes less about remembering what to do, how much to do, or when to do it and instead becomes more about the act of doing.

Tracking and progress data can drive motivation and success. Experts agree that when people track their efforts and celebrate their successes, they’re more likely to achieve their short-term and long-term goals. Today, devices, apps, and personalized wellness programs make this piece of the fitness puzzle automatic. Users can log their activity, see their progress at-a-glance, better understand (and compensate for) shortfalls, and make the connection between past effort and current improved health. The importance of these snapshots can’t be overstated. They create another level of accountability and a minute-by-minute motivator.

Devices, apps, and online programs display our commitment publically. Though they’re designed to be subtle and stylish, wearable devices are still quite public displays of our personal fitness efforts. Apps and web-based programs that allow us to share our successes via social media have a similar effect: they declare to our network of friends, families, and colleagues that we’re focused on a goal, however modest it may be. Psychologists and motivational coaches alike echo the positive impact that communicating our goals has on successful outcomes — it creates a web of people we’re accountable to and an informal group of supportive followers.

Information changes awareness. Over time, a constant feed of data about how many steps we’ve taken, how many calories we’ve burned, our heart-rate, or hydration level does what it’s designed to do: it alters our way of thinking. Becoming conscious of critical health information and understanding the interplay of behavior and wellness can gradually change our habits and in turn, our lifestyles.
As high-tech health and fitness products and programs continue to evolve, no doubt they’ll become even more seamlessly integrated in our lives. And in a world where individuals are expected to take a more active role in their health, that integration can make positive change more likely, more significant, and much more enduring.

 

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