Mobile Apps and Devices Help Employees at All Fitness Levels Track Health Data

Devices_01.31.13January’s a common time when many of us set health goals for the coming year. But how many of those goals fade away after a few weeks, without being reached each year?  They don’t have to. Continuing advances in devices, mobility, and easier access to relevant data on the web can make reaching our goals much easier and much more interesting for us all.

We’re only a month into the new year, so it’s likely your employees still have their 2013 health and wellness goals fresh in their minds.  Now is a great time to show them that your organization supports their efforts and wants to foster a healthy culture.  One way to do so?  Show them how some simple tools – like tracking devices and mobile apps – can help them reach their goals.

Here are a few thoughts on the individual appeal and usability of the technology we work with here at Virgin HealthMiles, and what features may work best based on your employees’ fitness habits and comfort level with technology.

Set a Goal. 

Before getting started with a particular device or app, I recommend setting a goal.For the sake of this post, let’s say our goal is to improve physical fitness. More specifically, let’s further define our goal as: maintain an exercise regimen of 30 minutes 3 times each week.

We’ve all seen a lot of articles and stories about the quantified-self movement.  At the extreme, we could be spending a lot of time measuring and tracking every minute aspect of our daily lives.  But if our goal is specific – like the one we just set – that certainly helps narrow down our options for measuring our desired performance. Of course there are lots of technology choices out there.

Here are some things to think about when considering personal fitness devices and apps.

Think About Complexity.  

Chances are your employees may have experienced different levels of fitness at different phases in their lives. There are lots of tracking devices and apps to choose from, whether you’re just getting started with health and fitness or if you’re a pro, so encourage your employees to be aware of their current fitness levels – that will help them make a good technology choice.

Here are a few examples to help explain this idea.

Get me off the couch:  Say you’ve got a worker who wants to get more active, but really doesn’t have a use for lots of detailed fitness data.  A clip-on pedometer is a simple, easy tool that can help this person stay active on a daily basis.  It’s a good way to measure daily activity in a way that requires very little additional complexity.  The information from this device can easily be used to track and trend performance on the web, and share the off-the-couch experience with others. The HealthMiles program supports ‘clip and forget’ devices like our own GoZone® pedometer and popular consumer devices such as Fitbit Zip.

I get out and exercise… sometimes:  Maybe you’ve got another worker who’s more active, but needs a bit of a push to stay active regularly.  A simple clip-on device could work here, but a fitness tracking app on a smartphone may be very useful, as well.  Many useful mobile apps include reminders, badges, and social support to help your employees stick with desired habits.  With HealthMiles, we offer our Dash app, and we support RunKeeper’s HealthGraph API and their fitness app.

I’m a total gym rat:  This employee needs no incentive or motivation to exercise, but could certainly benefit from performance data and trend analysis to continue to improve training and achieve goals. Fitness apps or devices would certainly be a good fit here, but what could be even better is a combination of a device and app together. For example, combining a heart rate monitor device and a fitness app can provide a wealth of training performance and trending data. In addition to the RunKeeper HealthGraph and the RunKeeper fitness app, Virgin HealthMiles supports Polar® wearable heart rate monitors.

I play team sports, swim, run, or cycle: Say you’ve got an employee who’s really into a particular sport.  There are specific devices and apps tailored for this individual.  Devices can be added to a bicycle to track cadence, and other factors in addition to heart rate and time/distance. Similarly, running and cycling apps can use smartphone GPS to track distance, route and pace. These can also be combined with devices to add in heart rate data if your employees desire more precision.  Apps and devices can work together to keep people fully engaged in exercise sessions. The point is that regardless of the activity, everyone can find the right level of measurement and resulting data to drive awareness and progress. In addition to RunKeeper’s HealthGraph API, the RunKeeper fitness app, Virgin HealthMiles supports Polar® heart rate monitors, including cycling and running accessory devices.

Measure More Than Just Activity With Biometric Devices

Beyond activity, your employees can also use devices to track additional health and fitness data. Weight scales and blood pressure cuffs are now wireless-ready, and can they be connected to health and fitness apps to provide even more data points along your fitness journey. We hear all the time about how tracking weight and blood pressure can help improve overall health and fitness results over time. Virgin HealthMiles supports the Withings weight scale and A&D blood pressure cuff, as well as Aria weight scale from Fitbit.

Regardless of what your employees’ health goals may be for 2013, I subscribe to a widely held axiom: measuring something is half the battle. Everyone could, in fact, track some aspects of their daily lives to raise their awareness, measure their progress against goals, and identify trends over time. Having the right level of information can really enhance an individual’s exercise regimen and improve their results.

At Virgin HealthMiles, we believe in providing you and your employees with a variety of tracking devices and mobile apps so your employees can track data with tools they want, and so you can support them in becoming their best possible selves in 2013. Learn more about our fresh approach and how it can benefit your workforce at www.virginhealthmiles.com.

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