Smoking may cause heart disease; lack of sport may result in obesity. Bad lifestyle habits lead to a shorter life. Healthy lifestyle mantras are printed on mugs and t-shirts and shared in motivational posts. As the latest hype, the activewear market is growing steadily. What we should do and how we should live for a healthy way of life — the recommendations are ingrained in our brains. Still, the vast majority of people just do not follow the advice. Why? Ignorance, comfort, laziness, work, children, more work, reading, television, cooking, even more work, even less time.
How can we be saved from our doomed selves? My response has always been the same four letters. DATA. Data could save us, helping us find a strong inner motivation by giving immediate and quantifiable feedback about the center of our universes: Ourselves.
A major setback
My childhood dream was to become an astronaut. I started to exercise six days a week, so if I had the chance to become an astronaut, I could achieve that level of training within two to three weeks. Imagine the endless disappointment of my wannabe-astronaut self when, in spring 2016, I suffered heavy muscle inflammation due to over-straining. I felt crushed. I had to stop exercising for more than two months. Negative effects overwhelmed my emotional as well as my cognitive health. As I’ve been monitoring my health parameters in an Excel spreadsheet for years, my own data clearly showed the difference.
An upward trend
Until my muscle inflammation, I worked out every day, 30 minutes on average. Afterwards, my daily average dropped to ten minutes. When I started my recovery, I decided to buy a Fitbit. My performance skyrocketed: I could increase my average workout to 41.2 minutes per day. I had the motivation, of course, but I could not reach this level of activity without data. I realized that I was running, playing football or doing more gym sessions because I wanted my results to look better on my graphs. Data became my motivation and personal coach.
And this is just one example! Throughout the years, I significantly improved my sleep quality, I reduced stress and improved mindfulness and my cognitive skills from memory to problem solving. The digital era brought me to a new level of consciousness.
A chance to change
Most people are not born to be fitness gurus, but still we should live longer and healthier lives. Digital health technologies — from wearable sensors to apps with smart algorithms — give us the chance to change. We should live with it. They provide information and guidance. They connect caregivers, patients and peers. They put the doctor and patient relationship on a new, equal level.
People keep telling me I’m weird for measuring my health. I think they are weird for not doing so. They accept that sleep quality, stress or a healthy lifestyle is based on pure luck. In my view, what depends on us about our health should not depend on us. No technology can change our lifestyle. Only we can change it — with the help of good technologies.