What to do with all that fitness data

As new wearable devices emerge every day promising to monitor heart rates and blood oxygen counts and even stress, it’s easy to reach information overload. Suddenly we’re swimming in data without any clue of what to do with it.

When the numbers start to become overwhelming, it can be helpful to take a step back to consider why we’re wearing these gadgets in the first place. Frequently, employees are just looking for a nudge to improve their health, especially when they’re feeling anxious about too much sedentary time at work. Perhaps they should take the stairs instead of the elevator. Maybe they should skip the morning muffin.

As much as the numbers, these nudges provided by new technologies can help spur new habits—and help users maintain them over time. Researchers have found that incentives to change these little habits can be effective. A 2017 Duke University study found wearables demonstrated positive effects on physical activity and weight loss. But to get the most out of these devices—including VSP’s Level™ smart glasses—it’s a great idea to get up to speed on how to put the fascinating array of data they generate to use. The trick is to keep it simple.

The Big Picture

From a broad view, we might focus on trends rather than specific numbers. With the help of complementary tools, we can trace larger patterns in our lives, whether it’s how we’re sleeping, what we’re eating, or how much exercise we’re getting – and note how these practices are affecting our work and productivity.

“While I may not know the exact number of steps I took today, I know how I did compared with yesterday or last week, and that's real data I can use,” neurosurgeon and medical journalist Sanjay Gupta writes on Oprah.com. “But don't get swept up in trying to track everything—you'll drive yourself crazy.”

Gupta suggests logging data with any number of different apps, which is easy to access from a smartphone while on the job. Free software tools can link data to various actions, such as automatically entering it into a spreadsheet, posting achievements on Facebook, or sending texts when users are falling short of their goals. “You might get an email telling you that you're most active on Wednesdays, or that your mood is usually better on a Sunday—and how all that relates to your music listening history or social media activity,” David Nield writes in Popular Science.

Logging data can also help establish healthier patterns. The mind and body respond more readily to routines. But for many, just staying on top of our habits can be helpful enough. Life can move so quickly, days, weeks, months can sweep past in a blur, leading to the creeping worry we’re losing track of ourselves. And this kind of stress can actually lead to physical health problems of their own. “So maybe the real benefit behind all those numbers is simple reassurance,” Jessica Ruane writes for WearableZone. “Fitness data offers us hard evidence that our bodies are functioning; we're still alive and well, and everything is OK.”

Finding Community

Some people use wearables to connect with others. The more athletically-minded might like some friendly competition among co-workers to get their numbers up. But others just want support maintaining their new habits, in which case, leaderboards and other contest-like programs can be a detriment.

“If connections help to boost your motivation, then maintain them,” Malia Frey writes in verywellfit.  “But sometimes, they can have the reverse effect. Some dieters find the comparisons to others to be intimidating. Others find ways to cheat the system to become more competitive and ‘win’ their challenge.”

Simple Numbers

If weight loss is the goal, experts say it comes to the basic equation of eating fewer calories than we exercise off. So keeping track of calorie expenditure is fundamental—especially important in a work environment where free snacks or client lunches are the norm. Heart monitors can help by keeping users in the proper fat-burning zone—generally 60 percent of maximum capacity. Those pushing to lose weight more quickly sometimes separate their regular steps from their exercise steps to boost their regimen. If separating the two becomes too complicated, they set higher goals, such 20,000 steps a day.

We can also be more careful watching how many calories we take in. Some dieters will log what they plan to eat a night in advance. Following dinner—when they’re not starving— they make a list of the food they have on hand to eat, with an eye on calorie count.  “The most important thing to remember about calories and losing weight is deficit,” Francesca Menato writes in Women’s Health. “You're not going to lose weight if you're not burning off more than you consume.”

The Easiest Wearable

VSP is now offering Level™ smart glasses, which gather data from an everyday accessory.  No more wristbands—just the glasses employees would most likely be wearing anyway.

Level™ smart glasses break out an employee’s essential data—step count, calories burned, and distance traveled—to help them keep track of their activity while they move through their day. Centered on the body’s axis, Level™ keeps an excellent count, and VSP has been careful to keep the data secure. Better yet, they’re covered by VSP, so members can apply their vision benefits to the purchase of Level™. What’s more, Level™ offers even more incentive to move through its charitable giving program, where users get points for reaching their step goals they can use to donate eye exams and glasses to those in need.  

It’s just one more way to help your employees keep up in a fast-moving world. The data they gather from Level™ puts them one more step toward achieving their activity goals.

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