As a personal trainer, I have spent years helping people battle the physical detriments and sedentary lifestyle that accompany technological advances. What appears to be making our lives easier often results in moving less, sitting more, and putting us into postural positions that the human body was never meant to adopt for extended periods of time.
I make postural corrections a part of all of my athletes’ workout routines, and spend time explaining why endlessly hunching over a keyboard or phone leads to many of the postural distortions that make them susceptible to injury and pain. Unfortunately, this aspect of technology is here to stay. All we can do is become aware of the symptoms and combat them with proper muscular strengthening and inhibitory techniques.
But what if certain types of technology could improve our lives from a health and wellness standpoint? Two key tools that I encourage all my clients to utilize are a standard Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) test and a body composition test. I always recommend that these be done in a professional and clinical setting to ensure the most accurate results. An RMR test is usually quite brief and involves breathing into a machine to measure oxygen and carbon dioxide. This test measures your daily caloric expenditure (energy) while at rest, which makes planning your workouts and meals much more scientifically accurate. A body composition test can include a DexaScan, a hydrostatic weighing or a device such as a Bod Pod. These three options will yield the greatest accuracy for a trainer to have accurate measurements to chart future progress or make changes as necessary. Knowing your body composition (lean mass/tissue vs. body fat) is far superior than knowing body weight alone. It is also is a great way to chart progress, instead of relying solely on the scale for answers. Both of these tests can usually be done for under $200, and are available at many locations in cities around the country. But what about day-to-day technology and its positive effects on our daily health and fitness choices?
I recently bought an Apple Watch. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a fanboy and I buy almost every Apple product when it launches. However, with the watch, I was a bit resistant and told myself that I really didn’t see the use in having my technology strapped to my wrist 24/7. I did some research on the one aspect of the watch that interested me – the health apps that track and chart certain data from our workouts and daily activities. Tools like Nike+ and the FitBit provide us with data that allow us to monitor our activity levels, chart our workouts and even give us insight into our sleep patterns. As I researched further, I could see the potential benefits of having a watch strapped onto my wrist to constantly monitor my habits, provide me with feedback, and remind me to do things when I most often would forget.
Fortunately for me, I have a very active lifestyle and career. My clients’ daily lifestyles might tell a different story. Most, if not all of them work in a setting where they are required to sit for long periods of time, and lead highly stressful lives that prevent them from remembering to do many of the things I coach them about. As I strapped on my Apple Watch, I was pleasantly surprised at the information I now had available at my disposal. I could see how many steps I was taking each day, and the difference in the caloric expenditure on days when I was less active, like Sundays. I was able to monitor my heart rate, both resting and while working out which is a very useful tool when programing a cardiovascular program. On days when I sat in traffic for extended periods while in between clients, or at home working on my computer, my Apple Watch would buzz me every hour and remind me to stand.
I began to fantasize about the possibilities down the road. What if I could monitor my client’s heart rate during our session from my watch? I could gauge their activity level without affecting the workout. What if my clients’ daily activity level, caloric expenditure and other pertinent information could automatically upload to me each night, so I could offer suggestions? What if the device could gently, effortlessly remind my clients to drink enough water throughout the day? The benefits of fitness tech were quickly becoming apparent.
Recently, I sought out a meal planning service that was using all of the aforementioned technology to personalize a client’s daily meals down to a science. In fact, they encouraged and included metabolic testing once a month, and had their clients wear a device for a week to estimate their individual activity level. Then they would create, prepare, and deliver clients’ meals based on their exact needs and goals. All of this for around $10 a meal! Further into our discussion, the founder informed me they were in the process of creating an app to complement their meal service. This app would be available on a smart watch and monitor a client’s activity on a minute by minute basis. Based on that information, the watch would notify a client to adjust their meals as necessary. If a client was particularly non-active during the day, the app would recalculate the clients’ caloric needs and notify them to modify their meal plan. Should a client end up being more active and need more calories, the watch would notify them to increase their food intake, and even offer healthy options based on appropriate macronutrients. This was fascinating to me.
This was the moment I knew I was right! My industry wasn’t just leaning towards using more technology – it was sprinting. The possibilities for enhancing my clients’ lives were endless. For the past decade, I’ve seen the negative effects of being tied down to technology and its detrimental effects on the human body. But perhaps technology can enhance our health and wellness by assisting us in making better choices, reminding us when to do things, and providing us with data to achieve our goals. I’ve witnessed the benefits first-hand and will continue to educate my clients on the latest tech that will benefit them in the long run. Just remember to turn off some of those pesky notifications. No one needs their wrist reminding them every time they have a text, email or Facebook notification. Especially during an intense workout!