If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you will have noticed that my great passion in life is fitness, followed closely by gadgets, particularly mobile devices and apps. I have exercised with weights for 25 years, paying equal attention to nutrition, recovery, joint and tissue health. This is a lifestyle choice, achievable through the application of goal-oriented habits. It is also a massive exercise in data analytics, in which I use figures to monitor, count and adjust things to achieve optimum performance. As such weightlifting is an obvious candidate for “applification”, and with this in mind, a tweet I read recently really got me excited. It hinted to news I have been waiting for – Apple may be getting ready to release an app to support weightlifters.
No time for intuition
This news got me thinking. The mobile apps that are redefining the fitness market are slowly becoming integrated into our everyday lives. People are guided by the information they receive from their apps. Intuition and guestimation have all but gone, thanks to mobile devices and apps like MyFitnessPal, which tracks calories and macronutrients, or Reps and Sets, which logs your workouts. I have used the Push band for many months in my own workouts; it helps me to assess the intensity and performance of my weight training by measuring the velocity of the bar during each exercise I do. This helps me to understand the relative fatigue at a given load (weight on the bar), and serves as a guide in determining the optimal load of subsequent sets. Today’s apps go beyond mapping routes of runs or counting calories. They are becoming more sophisticated, precise and useful for optimising our exercise programs and goals, and increasingly they are also being used for monitoring health flags such as heart rate, blood sugar, blood pressure, and hydration.
The doctor will see you now
The use of mobile tracking devices for general medical surveillance is on the rise, as is the level of investment in accurate measuring devices. Google has recently launched its wristband, with the lofty claim that it can monitor vital signs to such a degree of accuracy that it is suitable for use in clinical trials. It is only a matter of time before this, or something similar, hits the shelves for general consumption.
New online health support services such as Babylon are giving patients instant access to doctors by email or video link, removing the need to visit a local GP in person. Patients simply log in to a virtual waiting room online, and wait until the doctor is ready to see them. Whilst this is mainly prevalent in the private health care market at the moment, the ever-increasing pressures on NHS GPs to provide services to more people more effectively mean that video consultations are likely to penetrate the public health service in time. And with technology enabling remote access to the doctor, the natural next step is the remote download of your vital signs for analysis by the doctor on screen for a more thorough online consultation.
Remove the gamble from health
Accurate monitoring devices can take some of the guesswork out of health issues. In appointments of the future, instead of the doctor asking how you have been, you might instantly share your data set, and a system could generate a report on the fly that provides an instant and comprehensive review of your current health. Taken further, if this data was to be periodically fed into monitoring systems, your doctor could flag up issues before you have even noticed anything is wrong. This preventative care could not only save the NHS significant sums of money, it could also help us to live much healthier lives with less disruption from sickness.
Data, data, everywhere
With the advantages of mHealth devices and apps becoming increasingly apparent, businesses are now looking to reap some of the benefits. Fitbit has revealed that the fastest growing area of its business is supplying companies with devices to monitor their employees’ health. It sounds creepy to some, including me, but it is optional for employees, and it provides employers with opportunities to monitor and support their wellbeing.
Using the data gained as a cost-saving tool for insurance policies, employers are turning to mHealth devices as a perk that benefits both themselves and their employees. Providing services such as the Babylon app as an employee benefit means that employees can deal with medical issues more flexibly and at times convenient to them. While this is great for reducing stress on employees, it also minimises lost working hours for employers.
A healthy future
As I have said before, I believe strong, productive minds are sustained through the development of physical strength and health. Technology is enabling health enlightenment like never before. As mHealth devices and apps continue to develop, they will further empower our decision-making on health issues and help us to achieve our personal health and fitness goals.
Imagine if an app could alert you to the best food or drink to consume in a restaurant or bar, taking into account your current health statistics, training goals and the food selection available. Over two decades ago this was a subscription service that I offered when operating my own nutrition and personal training business. To see how technology is enabling these support services to evolve is both fascinating and personally rewarding. Making better decisions leads us to making better lives for ourselves, and for our families and friends around us. The information is at your fingertips: it’s up to you whether you use it.