The good majority of us are not doctors. We don’t wear white coats, stethoscopes nor did we attend medical school. But don’t be discouraged, there is hope. With the rise of health tracking technology, the average person has an easy time of keeping tabs on their personal health data. The quality of sleep you’re getting, the calories you’re burning, and your heart rate are strong indicators of your current health, preventing illness and extending longevity. With a few simple technology tools you can monitor this information and use your findings to take crucial steps towards improving and maintaining your health and longevity.
Pedometer – It Started With Baby Steps
Improving your health is a journey, and even the biggest of journeys are made up of small steps. As a first step, you can start tracking your steps with a pedometer – pedometers are a great low cost way to begin to track and evaluate your health (your phone may already have one built in!). In 1965 a Japanese product called “manpo-kei” (meaning 10 000 steps) was marketed and sold in Japan, marking the beginning of the development of countless pedometers since. Pedometers can be seen as a pre-cursor to what accelerometers and “lifestyle trackers” are today. Many lifestyle tracker devices still keep track of how many steps you take, but their goals now are about more than meeting a step goal – these devices recognize that more data helps us to understand how our steps, movement—and lack thereof—affects our longevity. Set a daily goal and do your best to get there. 10 000 steps is a good place to start. Take the stairs. Walk around the office at lunch. You could even just stand up at your desk and walk in place (you may get some looks for doing this last one). Keep it simple and keep walking.
Similar to pedometers, lifestyle trackers add capabilities for those of us who want more information about overall health and lifestyle. A typical lifestyle tracker can monitor:
- The steps you’ve taken – did you meet your minimum of 10 000 today?
- Your heart rate – the good, bad and ugly
- The calories you’ve consumed – egads – did I really eat that much?
- How long you’ve slept and quality of sleep
By monitoring your heart rate you will know whether to speed things up or slow things down during your workout. By counting your calories you can judge whether or not you really need that dessert. A lifestyle tracker is there to nudge, remind and push you in the direction of healthier lifestyle. Arming yourself with this information helps you define how you might spend your time achieving a few more steps, rising out of your office chair a few more times and challenging your family and co-workers to a walking contest.
Lifestyle Trackers & Apps
- Apple Health
- Apple Watch
- Fitbit Charge
- Fitbit One
- Fitbit Surge
- Fitbit Zip
- Garmin Fenix
- Jawbone Up Move
- Jawbone UP
- Misfit Shine
- Moto 360
- Nike Fuel Band
Not all sleep is created equal. Quality sleep is critical for restorative energy, clear thinking and more productive days. Your rest hinges on a few factors and a sleep tracker is designed to help you nail down what’s bugging you in bed. A sleep tracker will tell you:
- If you’re sleeping straight through the night,
- What kind of sleep schedule you keep
- What point in your sleep cycle you wake up
- How deep your REM sleep is
Each of these metrics plays a large role in improving your quality of sleep and how you ultimately perform in life. If you find yourself tossing and turning or getting up to use the bathroom, you’re not getting optimal rest. If you go to bed and wake up at different times each day, you’re following an inconsistent sleep schedule and it’s throwing off your internal clock. Or, if you feel groggy no matter how much sleep you get, you’re probably waking up during the wrong stage of your sleep cycle. Put your mind and body at ease. Improve your thinking and daily performance. Use a sleep monitor to see what adjustments you need to make.
Maybe gadgets just aren’t your thing. No worries. One classic method of tracking your health requires nothing more than a place to keep track of and store your data. You could use a note pad and paper, or even better, try using a note keeping app like Evernote or Google Keep. Fitness and calorie tracking apps likeMyFitnessPal, or Lose It! are also incredibly helpful in keeping track of how you are managing your health. Keeping a daily journal of your activity levels and diet is a great way to improve your health. Not feeling well? Check your journal. Have you kept up with your exercise goals? Have you been eating the right types of food and getting the rest you need? With daily tracking it’s easier to understand why you feel the way you do on a day to day basis. Tracking your daily life lends itself to a greater sense of ownership and helps you engage more to enhance your actions on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. You can look back to see your progress, challenge your friends and family, and at your next doctor’s visit show off the great results.
Health Journal Apps
When it comes to tracking and improving your health, there is plenty of technology available. Whether you need a little motivation to get moving, a way to see the calories you’re burning, or just a better night’s sleep, you can attain it by monitoring your daily health. Experimentation is the key, and keeping track of your daily data will help you find the best solution for you.
Do you monitor your health? Which metrics have you found the most useful in improving your daily life?
Disclaimer: As Yoda once said, “Size matters not.” Many of the above devices are small but mighty in delivering a multitude of health and wellness data tracking capabilities. As such, some of the devices and apps fit into multiple activity tracking categories. They are categorized above to demonstrate examples of one of their capabilities. The technology, devices and apps mentioned above are a collective sample only, not an exhaustive list of technology available, in market or in development phase as new technology evolves constantly. That is a good thing.