What’s Next in Tech and Health

(This post is taken from my weekly newsletter which turned into a nice blog post. If tech and health interest you, subscribe to the Training Desk of Hans Schiefelbein.)

This week I want to share a brief insight into my vision as a fitness professional. Anyone who has worked with me for more than a couple months knows that I gravitate towards and leverage technology whenever possible. While technology is only a small part of my training, it is essential. The articles in this issue got me thinking deeper this week about the future of my training modalities and the direction of health care and the allied health industry.

My contribution to people’s health

When I am working with a client, my iPad is never more than a hop, skip, and a lunges away. I have all of my workouts on it and I’m always ready to take notes or take a picture to add to a client’s file. It is far from a perfect system and too much still falls through the cracks. But I recognize that with devices and enough apps that are fully customizable, there is continually less excuse to not have everything perfectly documented. When I do orientations for new members I want to send them their PDF as soon as our session is done so that they can start planning their next workout. When I need to see what a client did last week, where they struggled, where they won, or how they did a workout three months ago to today, I have that all on my iPad. In summary, technology makes my profession more thorough and more efficient. Hopefully this leads to increased trust and better results for the client.

Once members have started their fitness routine, I wanted to provide additional tools to help with exercise adherence and progressions. I developed a series called Fitness Tracker 2.0, the idea being that many of us have and use these trackers but don’t use them to their fullest or aren’t getting the results that we want. Since starting this series in 2016, I’ve learned that simply wearing a fitness tracker doesn’t guarantee success or even compliance and adherence. A combination of the client’s motivation, my coaching, and group (training) dynamics all contribute to this equation. But still there is so much potential for technology to not only educate us but prompt us to make better decisions. These are just a couple ways I use technology at Pinnacle on a daily basis to make things go well for me and my clients.

Apple’s contribution to people’s health

Trainers like myself have figured out how to help clients at the micro level of the industry. But there’s a lot happening at the macro level also. As I wrote about in the healthcare issue, companies will soon take information from wearable devices and integrate it with a person’s medical history to make healthcare more efficient and hopefully more successful. What if Apple Watch was more than a $400 over-priced notification gadget and half-baked fitness tracker? What if it was 97% effective at detecting irregular heart rates?! That’s what a study from the University of California, San Francisco reported last week. To be clear, I fully expect Apple and the fitness industry to have trouble getting patients to be compliant in wearing these devices in the same way that not everyone at Pinnacle is jumping into my FT2 classes. One thing I learned in graduate school was that getting people into scientific studies is a lot like exercise adherence — you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. As a result I made it my goal to be a professional that bridges the gap between cutting edge research and science and the general public that needs (and wants) increased health. Regarding the irregular heart rates, Apple has provided the same bridge between consumer and the scientists. We now (potentially) have tools that mean we no longer have to go into a clinic to check for our heart health and that may even predict if a person is going to have a heart episode. Of course Apple and the clinics cannot advertise this but writing is on the wall that this is the direction of wearables and the health care industry.

No one wants the symptoms of an irregular heart beat, but fluttering in the chest, chest pain, fainting, or dizziness are usually present and help determine when you need to seek help. What if there were no symptoms? That’s often the case with the silent killer: diabetes. If the body cannot turn blood sugar into energy, the result is damage to the heart, kidneys, and nerves. I am sure there is wonderful technology around diabetes management and in fact I know a couple friends who have blood glucose monitors. But Apple is testing continuous blood glucose monitors that are (or could be) connected to an Apple Watch that would communicate with doctors and diabetes educators. This makes me so excited! Yes, I know education and monitoring are only part of the equation, but if a program can demonstrate success with these tools we can fight the disease that affects almost 10% of our population. All of a sudden a $400 watch seems like a tool that opens the door to not only health measurements but prescription and coaching. I want in on that.

What’s Next?

I see myself always working one-on-one with clients and patients but increasingly I see myself putting systems and programs in place for population health causes like heart health monitoring and diabetes education. We need to get past the idea that tech is the solution; we can’t expect people to use these devices because they they will make them healthier. We need the human component in the form of group dynamics and coaching to help people use the right tools for the job. The tech is getting better, we are getting smarter and seeing the bigger picture, and coaches like me will continue to bridge that gap and help us realize a healthier society.

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