Four times a carefully placed pointy elbow into the ribs jolted me from my sleep. “Second hand snoring” is dangerous apparently; sharing a bed with a snorer can lead to higher levels of fatigue and even be a risk for hearing loss (Beninati et al., 1999; Sardesai et al., 2003). But I’m only an occasional snorer so surely a gentle nudge to encourage me off my back is all that was required. What’s the point in two of us being awake? The ferociousness of the assaults was denied yet I had the bruises to prove it. But there was no apology. My attacker didn’t know I had hard evidence – I had the DATA courtesy of my new posh purchase – the “Microsoft band 2”. I was violently woken at 1.33am, 2.41am 3.45am, and finally 6.30ish……… how selfish! My threats to leave the marital bed had no effect; it may have even been welcomed!
Technological advancement can prove useful; it provided concrete confirmation of my battering. We live in a world of comfort; modern equipment has given us the services we need to live a sedentary life. We work with our fingertips and relax with Netflix. Smart phones and tablets are the modern soother, used to comfort, entertain and pacify unruly toddlers.
While Sony expect that more than 30 million play station four consoles will be sold by the end of 2015! Unfortunately sedentary behaviour is associated with adverse health issues and the development of chronic diseases including musculoskeletal disorders and back pain (Chen et al., 2009; Costigan et al., 2013). The normal human state – to walk around the world as we work, socialise, and play is progressively more unfamiliar to us. Prescribing increased activity levels as medicine is not only effective in treating musculoskeletal disorders, it has a role in treating psychiatric, neurological, metabolic, cardiovascular, pulmonary diseases and even cancer (Pedersen & Saltin, 2015). Exercise in adults can lead to a significant reduction in the occurrence of musculoskeletal pain and is associated with greater health related quality of life (Stovitz & Johnson, 2006). Even during episodes of lower back pain, advice to “take it easy” is less effective than guidance to stay active(Hagen et al., 2010). So, rather than focus on the detrimental impact of personal technologies, why not use it to provoke increased activity and exercise!
Technology is now wearable. The Microsoft band 2 allows sleep quality, the number steps taken and calories burned to be measured. It is capable of tracking heart rate, daily activity levels and exercise; it can even be used as a GPS running watch. It makes these measurements available at a glance and Microsoft claim that wearing one means “it’s easier to live healthier and achieve more”. The Microsoft band 2 is by no means the only option. Bands produced by Jawbone, Fitbit and Nike, to name only a sample, accurately collect and sync data to your computer or phone (Dontje et al., 2015; Ferguson et al., 2015). But do these bands really change behaviour, increase activity levels and reduce the risk of health problems…… Yes they do (Lyons et al., 2014) ….. But How?
Observing behaviour changes behaviour – known as the “Hawthorne Effect”. Band wearers increase their activity levels due to the fact it’s being measured (McCambridge et al., 2014). It has been suggested that social support and comparison (facebook boasting) facilitated by the fitness bands may be one of the behavioural change techniques responsible (Lyons et al., 2014). But let’s be honest, it’s like wearing your conscience on your wrist. It brings the guilt of “not being active” into the now rather than postponing it, and turning it into a promise. Reaching for the remote, the band sneaks out from under the sleeve and asks – could you do more? Have you hit your recommended step count for today? Have you earned the calories to eat the fruit and nut? So the obsession with technology often blamed for making us lazy, unhealthy and obese may have the potential to cure us, but only if we can tolerate having our conscience on our wrist. It has even developed a cure for the “occasional snorer” – earplugs (Robertson et al., 2006)
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