Health and wellness tech innovations are fast becoming game changers in our everyday lives, Vogue Arabia’s Beauty Editor Alexandra Venison investigates.
I arrive home after a long day of work and fall straight into bed. With a single request, my lights turn off, the alarm sets, and the temperature reaches optimal warmth for a seamless night’s sleep. Come morning, I rouse to a gentle light and symphonic music that permeates the room. Mine is a life streamlined by technology. With the tap of a button, curtains open, coffee is made, and a full training session is available. And that’s just scratching the surface. It’s no secret that times are changing and everyday gadgets are becoming more advanced – but it’s not all novelty inventions, however.
For those less technologically inclined, a new wave of developers who have spotted a gap in the market are making apps and updates user-friendly and fun. Take your daily diet, for example. “We kept hearing that people were finding meal-planning hard to manage, especially with a busy life,” explains Andreas Kambanis, founder of development company Nibble Apps, which recently launched its MealPrepPro app. You simply provide a few details – age, weight, height – and the app generates a custom meal plan for you and your partner. “Instead of planning and shopping, MealPrepPro does the hard work for you. We worked with chefs and nutritionists and created an easy-to-follow solution.”
The launch of the first Apple Watch in 2015 kicked this growing health movement into the next gear. Its latest iteration, the Apple Watch Series 3 and watchOS 4, incorporates information from the most comprehensive human performance study of its kind. Over the past five years, Apple has collected more than 66 000 hours of data from 33 000 exercise and movement sessions by 10 000 participants, from swimmers to yogis. This massive trove of information was then used to develop and advance Apple’s algorithms, with its newest additions being smart coaching, new auto detection in swimming for tracking laps, rests and pace for every set and for each stroke type, and high-intensity interval training, as well as a new design. “With watchOS 4, the Activity app will deliver intelligent coaching by learning your behavior and offering tailored encouragement. Users will receive the right motivation or the right assistance at the exact time needed,” explains Jay Blahnik, director of fitness for health technologies at Apple. Its Health platform also receives data from more than 7 000 apps.
The new technology also helps people better understand the equipment they are using, and be part of a global community. A prime example of this is Australian superstar trainer Kayla Itsines and her Sweat app, which brings together different trainers on one platform, and was created to help women step into the gym with confidence, she says. The app works alongside the Apple Watch. “It’s like having a personal trainer on your wrist,” Itsines says. “It makes it easier for women to properly perform each exercise. You can monitor your heart rate and measure how you are going during your workout. Plus, you don’t feel as if you are working out alone.” Dubai-based personal trainer Derryn Brown also has clients who incorporate smartwatches into their workouts. “We can hold each other accountable and monitor movements and workouts. It’s a great way to stay motivated,” she says.
Overall health and wellbeing is about more than just fitness, though, with mindfulness increasingly being seen as a vital part of a balanced lifestyle. And, of course, there’s an app for that. “More so now than ever, there is an opportunity to better understand what our bodies need for optimal performance by tracking it,” says New York-based yogi Sara Clark, a teacher on the yoga and meditation app YogaGlo. “YogaGlo makes yoga accessible to everyone. From mindfulness practices to vinyasa and kundalini yoga, users are guaranteed to find a style and level that is perfect for them,” she explains. Yoga has been scientifically proven to lower stress levels and blood pressure with almost instant results.
Along with mindfulness apps such as Headspace helping more than 16 million users cope with stress and anxiety, there’s no doubt that this is more than just a trend. Users are seeing a difference, from better concentration at work to being able to switch off in the evenings. Technology’s health benefits even extend to your sleep. The Beddit 3 Sleep Monitor seamlessly slips under your sheets, where it tracks your time asleep, heart rate, respiration, body and room temperature, humidity, and even snoring. By collating this data on your smartphone, it can help improve your long-term sleep hygiene.
But are we moving towards a world where we rely too heavily on technology? Where every aspect of our lives is determined by our smartwatch and without which we wouldn’t be able to function? For now, living in a fast-paced city, every little bit helps. If I need a reminder to stand up and breathe, I will well and truly take it.
Originally printed in the October 2017 issue of Vogue Arabia.