The consequences of our unhealthy lifestyles are very disappointing
It is already common knowledge that an unhealthy lifestyle leads to serious diseases. According to the World Health Organization, the use of tobacco kills around 6 million (!!) people, while the harmful use of alcohol results in 3.3 million deaths each year. The WHO factsheet on obesity states that overweight and obesity are the fifth leading risk for global death.
Facts are harsh. Especially if we continue with the financial burden healthcare places on us and the fact that our laziness is mostly responsible for it. Let’s just consider the biggest player: American health spending will reach nearly $5 trillion, or 20 percent of gross domestic product by 2021. And as a study published in The Lancet shows, in 2013 the effect of physical inactivity and related deaths cost the world economy more than $67.5 billion (healthcare costs and loss of productivity). This is an equivalent to the total GDP of Costa Rica in the same year.
Change the trends with data!
How could we change the trends? What should we do to make things better? It is obvious that we need a change in our attitudes and our lifestyles. But how could we reach that?
Well, it is also a fundamental truth that you should get to know a system thoroughly before making any analysis or further improvement. Thus, systemic improvement is impossible without measuring data.
Currently, technological development makes it possible more than ever to collect data sets – and not only through institutionalized forms, but also for the individuals themselves. Thus, my suggestion for everyone would be to measure data with the help of new technologies – and you’ll see that with the help of digitization, also lifestyle-change comes easier. You could say that one swallow does not make a summer, for which I would like to respond with the common saying that little streams make great rivers. And I believe the streams are set in motion.
Measure data with healthcare wearables and sensors!
A swarm of wearable sensors is becoming widely available and these let us measure data about our health, as well as receive immediate feedback about how we are performing. Pebble Time and the Android Sleep App provide data about your sleeping habits, Fitbit Surge tracks your fitness activities, while PIP gives you an overview about your stress levels. I’ve been quantifying my health since 1997, first on paper, then with more and more sensor. Let me be honest with you. I don’t have the motivation of a fitness guru to live healthily. Yet I still found my solution for doing exercises 6 days in a week. How did it happen? With data.
If you see your own health data, you get hooked up immediately. I guarantee you that.
But when I see reports about how fitness trackers couldn’t change someone’s lifestyle, it makes me sad because people expect the tracker to make the change. Technology cannot change your lifestyle. You can change it with good technologies.
So Why Don’t You Use Technologies to Live Healthier?
1) You don’t know where to start?
I feel you. It is always really hard to start something which you never tried before. You don’t have to save the world overnight – that’s the task of Bruce Willis in a blood-soaked tank top. You might try with baby steps. First you have to find out what kind of habits do you have which might cause you problems.
For years, I was dissatisfied with my sleeping pattern. So one day, I decided to analyse the problem. I started scoring my sleep every day. To learn exactly what I measured, check my free, step by step guide to hacking sleep. Only after I had an idea about my possible problems did I start to use a wearable for measuring my sleep.
I did something similar with stress. First, I had to identify what makes me more stressed, as well as the activities and thoughts that help me reduce anxiety. Then came designing a strategy that helps me pursue my lifetime goals without inducing undue stress. Believe me, it is worth the effort. Looking back, managing stress proactively might have been one the best decisions in my life.
2) You don’t know what to track?
You have plenty of possibilities to use health sensors and wearable trackers – and the list is expanding day by day. You can measure your blood pressure, brain activities, your sleep patterns, pulse, body temperature, daily physical activities, you cardiac fitness, you stress levels or your ECG. The following video gives you an overview about health parameters or vital signs which can already be measured by digital technologies
3) You don’t know how to choose a wearable for tracking something?
If you already know more or less what you would like to measure, it is time for you to choose a healthcare sensor or wearable. It is also a rather difficult task, but perhaps my useful tips or the video below could help you:
4) You don’t have the motivation?
Don’t worry. Neither do I. For example, I hate running. Probably some of you wish me crucified at this moment, but I have to confess: you can’t hate running more than I do. But since I have been using a fitness tracker, and the app analyses my performance, it’s quite exciting to see my progress. Therefore I only go out for a run for measuring data. You might say I’m a geek, and you would be right to think that. But why not if it does help gather more data about myself, and in the meantime, it also keeps me in shape and healthy?
Here is the absolute, ultimate first step.
Grab a sheet of paper or open a spreadsheet and give a score between 1 and 10 to your physical health (how energized/healthy you are), emotional health (how you are doing in general, whether you are feeling positive vibes), and mental health (how efficiently you could focus today, how creative you are) and do that for about a week. It only takes a few seconds a day. After a week, you will be able to see some interesting associations about your health.
If you don’t find out anything, please feel free to share it with me (Twitter.com/Berci) and I’m happy to help. It’s going to be fun!
Let’s get healthier by finding our personal motivation! Use technologies wisely to exploit what’s in you!