Living Mobile: Five Ways Technology Can Help Us Live Healthier Lives

There is no question that technology can lead to a sedentary lifestyle. It has be-come increasingly easy to spend the day on the couch playing video games and browsing the Web.

But that same technology can help us get fit, maintain a healthy outlook on life, and even improve the environment. Here are five ways tech-nology is helping us lead healthier lives. 

1) FITNESS APPS AND ACTIVITY TRACKERS

If you ever feel like you don’t have the time to exercise or can’t motivate yourself to get out of the house and go for a run, there’s an app for that. If you find exercise boring, you can check out Zombies, Run!, an app that encourages you to walk, jog, or run (away from zombies) around your neighbor-hood (where you can collect supplies to build your doomsday shelter). If you are lacking self-motivation, apps like Nexercise can help convert your work-outs into gift cards to stores like Home Depot, Sephora, and CVS Pharmacy. A 2015 article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research con-cluded that app users were more likely to exercise than non-app users during downtime. App us-ers in the study also had a lower body-mass index and were more likely to overcome common barriers to exercise like absence of self-motivation, lack of time to exercise, and an inability to enjoy exercise.

2) MENTAL-HEALTH APPS

We all worry more than we should, often about the most ir-rational and improbable things. Now, apps like Worry Watch can help us keep a mobile anxiety journal where we can log, track, and analyze our most-troubling thoughts. Actively analyzing our thoughts is a wonderful way to eliminate unnecessary and dis-tressing worries. Other apps like Pala-linq help address substance abuse, and apps like 1DocWay provide telepsychiatry services to smartphone owners. In its Comprehensive Men-tal Health Action Plan 2013-2020, the World Health Orga-nization recommends provid-ing comprehensive, integrated, and responsive mental health and social care in community-based settings, through the use of electronic and mobile health technologies. Furthermore, the Anxiety and Depression As-sociation of America says that mobile apps can be effective tools that make therapy more accessible, efficient, and portable for those with anxiety disorders, depression, obsessive-compul-sive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other related disorders.  

3) VIRTUAL REALITY

Psychiatrists and researchers are beginning to use virtual real-ity to offer exposure therapies. The virtual reality gear in these instances is used to simulate anxiety-producing situations. If someone is afraid of spiders, im-mersing them in a virtual reality room filled with spiders can be an effective mode of conduct-ing exposure therapy, without exposing the patient to any risk of serious injury. One experiment found that patients who underwent virtual reality treatment paired with traditional cognitive-behavioral therapy better recovered from flight anxiety than patients who engaged in only cognitive-be-havioral therapy, and experts posit that virtual reality treat-ments in psychiatry will become more common as the technology becomes more affordable and accessible. 

4) VIDEO GAMES

Programs like Lumosity are great for those of us who wish to strengthen our memory, per-ception, and attention. But re-searchers are on the brink of developing a more personalized and effective method of enhanc-ing cognitive capabilities. Dr. Adam Gazzaley, featured in this issue’s Q&A section, is working with Akili Interactive to create closed-loop video games — games that adjust their tasks and difficulty in real time, ac-cording to each patient’s perfor-mance. These games can be used to improve neural functioning and cognitive symptoms for ev-erybody — from patients suffer-ing from age- or disease-related cognitive deficits like Alzheim-er’s disease and dementia to indi-viduals looking to sharpen their attention or strengthen their memory. 

5) ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING

Environmentalists have taken to crowdsourcing and mobile technology to keep watch over their surroundings. Smart Citizen Kit, one of the most well-known groups leveraging the advent of crowdsourcing, is using crowd-funding to distribute kits that let users measure air composition, temperature, light intensity, sound levels, and humidity in their area, data which the users then easily upload to a central database. The United States Environ-mental Protection Agency has also sponsored crowdsourced- and citizen-science-based programs. One program, with the help of the New Jersey Environmental Federation, used citizen scientists to analyze the pollutants from city trucks. This lead to the creation of an ordinance seeking to reduce people’s exposure to diesel exhaust and to reduce diesel emissions. 

The Spring issue of Brainworld Magazine is out! Check your favorite newsstand or book shop for a copy. Links to digital articles will be uploaded as soon as they are set. 

 

 

Alex Siegman