Examine your daily routine. Perhaps you wake up to the sound of your phone alarm, brush your teeth with an electric toothbrush, turn on the TV to catch up on your favourite show, ask Alexa a question, put a load of laundry into the washing machine, or use a computer to pay your bills online. No matter how big or small or easy or complex a task may be, there is often a bevy of technologies that we can rely on to help us complete it.
The degree to which technology has embedded itself into our lives is becoming increasingly apparent, and the health space is no exception. Here are a few tech-based strategies that may offer benefits (1-3). Click on the links below to learn more.
1. Gamified smartphone applications
Games incorporate interesting features such as point collection, emphasizing rankings through leaderboards, confronting users with challenges, social networking, and providing rewards. Preliminary research shows that smartphone applications (aka apps) that utilize game-like features may increase physical activity levels, namely step count and walking. More research is needed to confirm these benefits and highlight the most effective game-like features to include within apps (1).
Physical activity pops up again, but this time the conversation is specifically related to people living with rheumatic and/or musculoskeletal diseases. Research shows that in this population, wearable activity trackers may boost the number of daily steps taken and the amount of time spent participating in moderate to vigorous activity. More research is needed on the long-term effects of this strategy and what additional methods to best pair it with (2).
Virtual reality refers to the use of computer technology to induce the feeling of being in an artificial or augmented environment (1;4). Research shows that in people who have had a stroke, virtual reality therapy may produce small improvements in overall arm function, motor impairment level, and activities of daily living. What is more, immersive therapy may be best and those with moderate to severe arm weakness may see the most benefit (3).
Before you download a gamified app, purchase a wearable activity tracker, or put on a virtual reality headset, discuss these strategies with your healthcare team. Ask whether they are appropriate for you, given the health conditions you may live with and your health status, as well as how to utilize these strategies safely.