From social media to Skype chats and self-driving cars, technology may be well known for reducing our need to move, but it can also motivate people to be more physically active. Here's how.
Do you love new tech, but spend too much time behind a screen? Why not use it to help you get more active! “In order to create an environment that’s more conducive to healthier lifestyles, we need to start by understanding human behaviour a lot better,” says Dr Craig Nossel, Head of Vitality Wellness. “A clearer grasp of the psychology of our decision-making will help us put incentives and structures in place to improve our health-related behaviours.”
Technological advances, along with artificial intelligence, can go a long way towards improving this understanding of our health. Currently, how we get active is being influenced by these four technological trends:
1. Social media fitspiration
There’s nothing new about exercising in a group to boost individual motivation. But thanks to social media, there are so many new ways to interact with people while getting active. From online fitness communities and social challenges on Facebook to training advice from fitness experts on Instagram and YouTube, social media has facilitated a whole new way to get – and stay – motivated and connected.
2. Wearable technology
It’s no surprise that wearable tech has claimed a top-three spot on the American College of Sports Medicine’s list of global fitness trends for the past three years. Be it a heart rate monitor, step counter or an Apple Watch, fitness devices are making their mark on more and more wrists every day. Wearable technology has given people unprecedented control over their personal health and fitness.
Dr Carol Austin, Head of Performance Support for Team Dimension Data, explains how wearable tech has enhanced their team’s capabilities. “Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka is the first African cycling team to compete in the Tour de France – and we couldn’t have done it without technology. In addition to on-bike devices, every rider completes a daily mobile questionnaire that records a host of wellness parameters, including sleep patterns, mood, energy levels and injuries. This allows us to track each rider’s progress more effectively.”
3. Immersive fitness
Where would you like to train today? Perhaps a cycle in the Tour de France. Or how about a jog along a secluded mountain path? Many exercise studios, fitness consoles and apps now promise to take your training to the next level with the help of virtual reality routes, surround sound, wrap-around studio screens and integrated displays. It even has a name: exertainment. But it isn’t just about keeping you entertained; ZWIFT, for example, encourages competition by displaying a leaderboard with every rider’s real-time stats during sessions.
4. Health and fitness apps
From step counters and heart rate monitors to exercise journals and workout guides, there’s an app for every aspect of fitness. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, exercise apps encourage people to become significantly more active.
A good example of this is Discovery’s Vitality Active Rewards (VAR) programme, a smartphone-based app that is designed to encourage Vitality members to increase their activity levels. It accomplishes this by setting weekly personalised physical activity goals – and then rewarding you for achieving them. If you achieve your weekly goal qualify for a range of rewards: from smoothies and coffees to gym subscription subsidies and discounts on flights, running shoes and fitness tracking devices.
Getting more people moving, more often
“The Vitality programme has helped us understand the role of technology, data and behavioural economics in health behaviour change,” says Nossel. “The Vitality Active Rewards benefit, which was launched in 2015, has shown to increase physical activity by close to 30%.”
“Importantly, this behaviour has been sustained by our members – we found that after a year on VAR, the frequency of members’ physical activity doubled – even in older adults with lifestyle-related chronic diseases. This correlated to a 16% decrease in the risk of disease progression for people with diabetes, and a 14% drop in healthcare costs overall.”
It's also been shown that Vitality Active Rewards members increase not just the frequency of physical activity, but also the intensity at which they exercise.
The goal? A holistically healthier society
The results are also far-reaching. Globally, there are 5 million people on Vitality Active Rewards. These members have earned around 14 million weekly rewards so far – including over R7 million in MoveToGive charity donations. The programme has tracked 108 million fitness events.
“Technology is reshaping the way we move,” says Nossel. “By combining tracking devices with big data, we are better able to understand human behaviours at a more granular level. The hope is that we can use this knowledge to help facilitate positive health outcomes and build up a holistically healthier society.”
Balls and bats, bands and mats – get brand new sports gear for less!
Whatever equipment you need to jazz up your training routine, spend less on it with Vitality HealthyGear. This benefit offers up to 25% cash back on a wide range of sportswear and equipment at Totalsports or Sportsman’s Warehouse. Activate your HealthyGear benefit, or increase your cash back by doing a Vitality Fitness Assessment.
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Get up to 75% cash back on your Vitality-linked heart rate fitness device
Achieve your monthly Vitality Active Rewards goals to get cash back on a brand new fitness device. Activate Device Booster and get up to 75% total cash back on your qualifying heart rate fitness device purchased from your preferred HealthyGear partner: Sportsmans Warehouse or Totalsports.
If we don’t understand how to interpret data in ways that compel us to act, even the most sophisticated of technology is useless. Learn all you need to know about heart rate monitoring here, and how wearable tech can get you fitter.
Growing up, I couldn't wait to see what cool gadgets James Bond would use next to save the world. These days, it seems unimpressive considering what the tech attached to our bodies can do. Dr Craig Nossel, Head of Vitality Wellness: The Sunday Times, 21 May 2017