You can’t change what you can’t see. Ever since I took a course on data analytics in college I’ve been fascinated with the importance of data. While that class was business orientated, it changed my entire approach to health and wellness.
The body is essentially a dozen complex integrated systems that are constantly handling environmental inputs and producing outputs. Consider the inputs things like the food you eat, the air you breathe, and other environmental stimuli, while outputs are things like changes in body composition or hormone levels. All of these inputs and outputs can be tracked as data points and reveal trends in how that data changes over time. These trends in how your body is changing provide actionable insight as to how you can alter your behavior to have a positive impact on physical and mental health.
Sure, you could track some of this data manually. Step on the scale and write down your weight, measure your heart rate at the wrist multiple times a day and log it, make a note of your mood, estimate how much sleep you got, etc. That sounds EXHAUSTING and not to mention unsustainable. Thankfully smart technology has advanced far enough to automate a majority of the data collection process. These are 4 of the devices that I use on a daily basis to capture all of my health metrics:
Smart Scale (Withings Body+)
Body scales have improved to measure much more than just weight. Smart scales can now measure Body Fat, BMI, and water weight by using bioelectrical impedance analysis. I step on mine every morning right after I wake up and 10 seconds later, all of these measurements have been recorded to the cloud and are visible on my phone. Despite the resulting variations in weight due to different pairs of pajamas or a bloated stomach, the data is accurate enough for me to look at weekly and monthly trends. If I see my BMI trending upward, I know it’s time to crack down on my drinking and shift some more of my focus to exercise and diet.
Smart Watch (Apple Watch Series 4)
I used to have an obsession with watch fashion and would regularly add new pieces to my collection in order to accessorize. However, watches of old can’t compete with the functionality that comes from a smartwatch. The most important health metrics I get from my apple watch include an accurate step count, resting heart rate (RHR), and heart rate variation (HRV). It also records these metrics during my workouts, along with VO2 max, and then saves my workouts. This helps me increase the difficulty of workouts over time.
If you’re not a fan of the Apple ecosystem or tech aesthetic of the apple watch, there are several other great smartwatch options out there with classic watch designs, such as the Withings Steel or Fossil Hybrid.
Smart Ring (Oura)
Oura measures directly from the arteries within your fingers to track 7 different metrics while you sleep. These include:
- Resting heart rate
- Heart rate variation
- Respiratory rate
- Body temperature
- Light, deep, and REM sleep
- Nighttime movement
- Sleep timing and quality
These metrics are used to calculate an overall sleep score. I can look at trends in my sleep score, and just like with my BMI, if they begin to trend in an unhealthy direction I can shift some focus towards improving my sleep habits.
Between a full-time position with Desk, managing a wedding photography business, creating this blog, and trying to live a happy social life, you might think I get very little sleep. You’re right, sometimes I do! There are times when responsibilities overlap or I get in a little over my head with projects and my sleep suffers because of it. But, since sleep plays a vital role in my body’s physical and mental recovery, it’s one of my bigger priorities. I notice a significant difference in daily energy and mood when my weekly sleep average falls below 7.5 hours/night, so I aim for 8-9 hours/night.
Health Monitoring (Gyroscope)
While Gyroscope is an app, not a smart device, I include it here because all of my other smart devices wouldn’t be nearly as effective without it. It aggregates ALL of my health data into one super clean UI, showcases trends, compiles an overall health score based on several dozen different metrics, and tracks my mood, mindfulness, and nutrition. It’s basically a fitness and nutritional team in an app. I would start with their AI plan.