5 Ways Technology Can Help Improve Your Health
For time-crunched and stressed-out entrepreneurs, managing one's health is a necessary but potentially difficult process. Who has time to sleep well and be active when you're locked to your computers or smartphones trying to bring money into a fledgling business?
Better living through technology -- that may sound like an advertising tagline, but it should actually be your workplace motto. While technology has made some people more sedentary, which can contribute to health problems, these five products can make it work in your favor, improving health and, ultimately, office output.
Problem 1: Physical Inactivity
The World Health Organization says, "move it, or lose it," and really means it. Being sedentary is a global problem that affects developed countries acutely. Physical inactivity kills more than 3 million people a year, making it the fourth leading risk factor for death, WHO says.
Solution: Nike+ FuelBand
About double the thickness of a Livestrong bracelet, the Nike+ FuelBand packs accelerometers -- sensors that measure the wearer's movement -- with other circuitry to monitor physical activity. By pairing via Bluetooth with an iOS device or plugging into a computer's USB port, the $149 band stores the number of steps taken, calories burned and NikeFuel, the company's proprietary unit of movement measurement, so you can monitor your activity level.
The FuelBand has a bright, high-contrast LED display that shows a fun animation when you hit your daily activity goal. Plus, it even keeps time.
Problem 2: Poor Sleep
If you happened to party too hard the night before a work day, you'd probably call in sick. But many workers have little compunction about heading into the office overly tired after a sleepless night. Sleeplessness has been clinically proven to be as impairing as alcohol, and its effects on the body can be even more debilitating, contributing to obesity, type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
You track your reps at the gym, so why not count your 40 (or more) winks? SleepBot is a free Android app that tracks sleep by having users check in when they hit the hay and check out when they wake up. Activating the app automatically silences the phone and shuts off WiFi, eliminating potential disruptions.
SleepBot also doubles as an alarm clock, syncs to a website where sleep data is stored, and allows users to analyze trends and write notes about their night's sleep. Future plans for the app include accelerometer integration, which can measure tossing and turning.
Problem 3: Forgetting to Take Breaks
Getting locked into a project can produce excellent business results, but it can also wreak havoc on your health, from eyestrain to back aches. While many workplaces have lunch and break policies, employees and business owners alike often eat at their desk and skip breaks to cope with heavy workloads and deadlines.
A free Chrome and Firefox browser plug-in, EVO prompts users to take frequent breaks. Running in the 20-20-20 mode, the plug-in will cause the computer screen to go black every 20 minutes, encouraging users to look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
In the 60-5 mode, it will recommend that users take a five-minute break after every 60 minutes of work. In addition, the service's animated robot directs users through a series of eye-strengthening calisthenics.
Related: 3 Postures to Boost Productivity Now
Problem 4: Weight Gain
Break rooms and common spaces can be grazing areas for workers, causing waistlines to expand and desk chairs to groan. Whether it's leftover Halloween candy or birthday cake, people tend to make the workplace the depot for food they don't want to be left home alone with.
A free website and accompanying app, MyFitnessPal is more than a calorie counter. With 1.1 million items in its barcode-scanning interface, the service imports nutrition information -- such as serving sizes and recommended daily allowances -- into users' profile. It not only adds up the calories, but also breaks them down in pie charts by carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
The site's social function encourages accountability because friends can see that you're exercising and can send messages to cheer you on. While they also can see that you've entered your food for they day, they cannot see what you've eaten, preserving privacy.
Problem 5: Eyestrain
From desktops to laptops and smartphones to tablets, we look at screens much of the day. Poor lighting, small fonts and bad posture can strain our vision. And the high-energy, visible light emitted by today's displays can further stress optics, leaving the eyes tired and possibly doing lasting damage to our vision.
Solution: Gunnar Optiks Eyewear
If you've ever seen professional video gamers, you might have noticed some wearing special glasses. They may be wearing Gunnar Optiks glasses, with amber-tinted lenses that filter out artificial light and improve image contrast. By producing slight magnification, the glasses -- which range in cost from $79 to $189 -- can also help reduce eyestrain.
Their shape encourages formation of eye moisture, anti-glare coating helps reduce fatigue caused by reflected rays, and prescription Carl Zeiss lenses can be added to enhance overall effectiveness, the company says.