Wearables that help you stay healthy, by measuring how many steps you take daily or your sleep cycles, are getting increasingly popular. However, do they really work and help you become more physically or mentally fit, or is it just another expensive accessory? I asked this question to Dr Michelle Blanchard, Head of Projects and Partnerships at the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre in Melbourne and a fellow at the Centre for Youth Mental Health at the University of Melbourne.
Integrating the data It turns out, it only makes sense to have a wearable if you can integrate and make sense of all the data of how you live throughout your day. For instance, you’ll benefit from a wearable that tracks how many steps you make per day if you correlate it with your mood. When you see that you feel positive after you’ve walked, and down when you spend days sitting on a couch, this is very valuable info to take action on. A wearable that only monitors the amount of steps taken doesn’t take into account all other things that his person has done on that particular day. They might have taken 10,000 steps, but maybe on the same day they also drunk too much alcohol, or didn’t eat anything at all. So without having all these data points, it’s very difficult to make a decision on whether walking 10,000 steps helped you stay healthier. Don't use them if you don't eat properly! One should also be very cautious relying on wearables if they suffer from any kind of mental or physical disorder. Whereas a wearable can be really useful for someone who’s experiencing mild anxiety and depression, since for these people exercise and bodywork is really good, for people suffering from other mental health disorders, they can be quite dangerous. For instance, people who have been diagnosed with eating disorders and specifically, bulimia, have a tendency to over-exercise to compensate for what they’ve eaten. So there’s a risk that a wearable that checks distance and calories will increase some of these eating disorder symptoms. The best way to use a wearable is to make sure that the data it collects is available to your health practitioner or coach and supports his decisions.
Listen to the full interview with Dr Michelle Blanchard on how modern technology can help you be healthier in Consciously Digital podcast section, where we cover the following questions:
Which health apps you must have on your smartphone?
How you can make sure that whatever you install actually benefits your health and well-being?
What can parents do when they sense they are “loosing” their children to the online?