Health

Want to get fit? Technology can help or hinder your chances

This is a guest post by Keas CEO Josh Stevens

As technology increasingly permeates our lives, a tech-savvy generation of workers tied to their desks and smart phones have 24-7 access to things that will either hurt or help their health and wellness.

Because of today’s technology, both individuals and employers have every opportunity to kick start programs that promote healthier lifestyles with dynamic online tools that are just a click away. The key to decoding the array of choices is to identify where technology can hurt — then finding the right tools online to help.

People are connected to their computer screens at work and at home in a way that promotes inactivity, aches and pains. For example, sitting, shoulders hunched over a computer for several hours a day, has a well-documented negative impact on health.  Repetitive keystrokes can result in stress injuries in wrists and arms.  Overall, sitting in office chairs for hours upon hours a day may not only lead to back pain, but the inaction associated with sitting increases the risk of developing the following:  cardiovascular disease, high-blood pressure, cancers, high blood sugar level and excess body fat.  Sitting for extended periods can literally cut years from a person’s life.

In addition to physical inactivity at work being a problem, simply staring at the computer is another.  So-called “computer vision syndrome” with associated dry eyes, neck pain, headaches, and blurred vision, are caused by forgetting to blink while gazing at computer screens. And those headphones that cover ears in a bid to cut out office noise and help gain focus? Well, those can lead to hearing loss and tinnitus.

Despite the growing list of technological grievances, some technology is providing a gateway to sophisticated tools that can help those same people make healthy lifestyle choices, such as programs for weight management, fitness planning, improving sleep, boosting cognitive health, and implementing easy-to-monitor wellness targets.

So, what does the everyday consumer think about technology and its impact on their health?  In “The Truth About Wellness” study recently released by McCann Truth Central, the global intelligence unit of advertising agency McCann Erickson, nearly half of respondents were concerned that technology is encouraging the bad behaviors that lead to obesity, but that the other half of respondents felt that the use of technology could help improve health.

So what’s the best way to kick start the use of technology to help people find better ways to get fit?

Individuals can now benchmark personal activity — currently known as the “Quantified Self” movement — such as exercise, diet, sleep and emotional and intellectual wellness, one click at a time. This is being done in the office, too, as more employers facing an unfit, desk-bound workforce, reach out to promote at-work wellness programs. Addressing wellness in the workplace is actually becoming a strategic business decision with the lack of employee engagement costing U.S. companies $370 billion in lost productivity in 2012.

Apps for almost any kind of wellness can be found on smartphones and tablets. Apps include lightweight, wearable activity trackers, such as Fitbit; MyFitnessPal, a calorie counter and exercise tracker; workout plans or coaching, such as GAIN Fitness and Nike’s Training Club. For improving cognition and memory, there’s MyBrainSolution and Brainscape.

Small changes lead to bigger ones. For employers, implementing a wellness program that is both online and social gives employees an interface that is familiar, fun and easy to use can be one of those changes. Adding games to the mix can also help engage workers, boosting their competitive nature, encouraging planning and strategic thinking, fostering organizational skills and giving the group shared goals.  If there is a team element to the wellness program, employees may become more inclined to commit to their changes and goals via carving out an hour for a team power walk, or encouraging each other on food choices during a team lunch out.

Here are some of the ways employers can promote better workplace health:

1.      Learn about the popular and effective ways your employees are already using in an effort to improve their health and wellness.  Are 10 percent of employees’ runners, or maybe yoga buffs?  Do you have a significant number of Weight Watchers on staff?  Are employees using Fitbits or Nike+ Fuel bands?

2.      Find a wellness program that employees of all health and fitness levels can easily embrace, whether they are training for their 6th marathon or just starting to walk for exercise.

3.      Use a healthy dose of “fun” vs. “homework” to help inspire employees to set and achieve their health and wellness goals.  Find ways to recognize them and celebrate their success when they reach milestones. Determine what the key goals are and create a clear path for achievement, but find a way to make achieving those goals fun, vs. homework.

4.      Combine friendly competition and group support with worthwhile incentives or prizes to keep people motivated. The more social a wellness program is, the more effectively it fosters community and teamwork that will help engage and inspire employees.

5.      Keep the program content fresh and interactive to better maintain employee engagement.

Josh_StevensAs CEO of Keas, the market leader in corporate wellness, Stevens is responsible for leading the development and market adoption of the company’s breakthrough wellness platform and applications. 93 percent of Keas customers say they will remain more proactive in their health as a result of their use of and participation in the Keas Wellness Platform.

Stevens has over 20 years of experience in product, sales, marketing, and is a recognized leader in driving high-value product experiences that deliver customer delight and investors valuation growth.

Prior to Keas, Stevens was Vice President of e-commerce at YouSendIt, Senior Vice President of strategy and business development at TicketsNow, and General Manager of e-commerce at AOL. Prior to his GM role at AOL, Stevens held a variety of leadership positions in business development, product marketing, product management, and corporate strategy.

photo credit: Capt. Tim via photopin cc


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