Can technology really help drive healthy behavior change?
Daily Butt Workout.
Those are four of the 5,638 apps that come up in the Apple App Store when searching for “fitness” related apps. With all this (mostly free) fitness assistance, it’s a wonder how anyone with a smartphone would ever struggle with staying healthy. Or is it?
What technology solutions help force healthy behavior change?
With the advent of a new year came a plethora of new products aimed at doing just that.
One standout that was a major gift this past holiday season was Nike’s FuelBand—a bracelet that works double duty as an accessory and a workout companion that seeks to keep you motivated in pushing to your fitness goals. Of course, it’s not your ordinary pedometer-style motivation.
It tracks steps taken, calories burned, and even its own “Nike Fuel.” The motivation largely comes from awarding badges and other small bursts of excitement when you’ve reached goals set. Wearers of the FuelBand seem to like it and say they do feel more driven to reaching their daily goals. There is one major caveat, though: it tracks similar motions as comparable calorie burning. So, you could be lifting a barbell with one hand…or a chicken wing.
Another new product launched to drive healthy behaviors is the HAPIfork. Earning plenty of buzz at the recent Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, this $99 fork measures how fast you are eating and will tell you to slow down via a light through the handle of the fork. To take it further, the information gathered can be tracked through a mobile app and online dashboard to help you stay healthy by learning to eat slower and keep your portions down.
Unlike the FuelBand, I don’t know anyone personally who has tried this product (since it’s not out officially until spring) but those I’ve discussed it with seem to think that judgment from their own fork is pushing the limits. While it works toward much the same goal to get the individual motivated to be healthier, it seems that lights and notifications for bad behavior are just not as well received as those same LED lights when used to reward good behavior.
The difference between penalty and reward.
So while these two products both exist to assist people with reaching their goal of sustaining a healthy lifestyle, they are actually very different (and not just because one is dishwasher safe). The rewarding motivation of the Nike FuelBand is much more positively received as a cool, new tech accessory than the fork “that yells at you.”
While the badge on your iPhone screen is hardly a monetary reward, it appeals to the culture of gaming, competitive individuals who view reaching a fitness goal as a victory. No one wants to play a game that they are likely to lose.
Why be wrong when you can be right by simply playing a different game?