November 19, 2016 / Published 8:00 AM EST / Tamara George

Health goes high-tech - 8 ways technology is building wellness

Technology gets a bad rap for making us more sedentary. And while it’s certainly true that too much screen time and too little activity aren’t good for us, there are also ways in which technology and wellness innovation actually make us exercise more, eat better, age more gracefully – and live healthier lives.

Activity monitors. There’s a reason why wearable tech has become such a huge trend: it gets people moving. Whether you’re wearing it on your wrist, on a pendant, or using the pedometer on your smartphone, tracking fitness keeps you motivated. And if you’re sharing your stats with your network, it keeps you accountable too!

"Wearable tech is a catalyst for getting active and improving overall wellness,” says David Gaida, Director, Strategy, John Hancock Insurance. “The devices are simple, they keep you on track, and people of all ages can benefit. I wear an Apple Watch and use running apps like Map My Run, both of which integrate directly into our John Hancock Vitality program.”

Fitness and health apps. Whatever exercise you like, there’s probably an app for it. From follow-at-home workouts to apps to help you run faster (feel like getting chased by virtual zombies, anyone?), they make exercise more fun and give you a chance to connect with others with similar goals. And if you need help managing diabetes and monitoring high blood pressure, there are apps for that too.

Food and nutrition trackers. Studies show that keeping a food diary makes weight loss easier. With some of the great nutrition apps out there (many of which are built into wearable tech), tracking calories is easy. Extensive food databases take away the guesswork – all you have to do is enter that 16oz. latté or the breakfast sandwich, and the app does the rest.

Pokémon GO. While GO isn’t specifically a fitness app, it certainly gets people moving and connecting with others. It shows that gaming doesn’t have to be about staying on the couch.

Brain games. A recent study shows brain training programs might cut the risk of Alzheimer’s. So challenge your mind and keep those neurons firing with online games and apps (a quick Google search will net you lots of option, both paid and free).

Meditation apps. Need some stress relief? Get your ohm on with a wide variety of guided relaxation options, many of which are free.

Virtual reality. Although it’s not quite mainstream yet, VR is being used in a variety of health fields. From helping soldiers cope with PTSD to helping people overcome phobias to treating stress and anxiety through meditation, it has tremendous possibilities as a healthcare tool.

Robots that help people. They’re being developed to assist the elderly with mobility and navigation. From a robotic cane/walker that offers health monitoring and guidance to a robot that escorts people living in an assisted living facility and reminds them about appointments, tech is making life better for people of every age.

Smart house technology. A recent article in The Atlantic explored how technology is changing the way we approach aging. Webcams, remote monitoring and sensors are allowing seniors to live independently, and offering adult children peace of mind without having to be intrusive.

Technology is changing life insurance, too. Vitality and ManulifeMOVE are innovative insurance solutions that reward you for healthy living. Using fitness trackers, these personalized wellness programs offer rewards based on the healthy foods you eat, the number of steps you take and the amount of exercise you do every day. Visit youareready.ca in Canada, jhrewardslife.com in the US, or Manulifemove.hk in Asia for more info.

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