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Blog: How technology can help and hinder: the pros and cons of a technophilic world from the CON perspective

For the majority of us working in various health fields, we have a love-hate relationship with technology. On one hand it’s amazing! It makes everything quicker, easier, and more efficient. It has allowed us to do things that we never thought possible and create medical miracles on an almost daily basis. On the flip side, it’s created new an unexpected challenges for those working in public health – new risk factors that impede on healthy active living.

Here are a few (slightly cheeky) arguments on how technology is helping, and hindering the world in which we live. For our dietician friends – I’ve left diet out of the argument… for now… J

CONs – technology is making us lazy and useless

You’re heard it before “sitting is the new smoking,” or “your office chair is killing you.” You may have even heard that our culture of convenience is the cause for all the health problems that ail us. Although these may be a bit extreme, they’re not not-true.

We know sedentary behaviour is bad and that physical activity is good. We also know that the average person is sedentary for the large majority of the day and not getting enough physical activity for health benefits. In fact, latest reports from the Canadian Health Measures Survey show that only 20% of adults meet current Canadian Physical Activity guidelines.  You could easily attribute this largely to our techno-filled lifestyles that make everything easily, and readily accessible, at all times.

Dr. Mike Evans recently put out a really catchy video explaining the importance of making your day harder – from parking further away, to hiding the remote, these micro-adjustments can pay dividends to your health.

Living in a world surrounded by technology also takes away the need to learn some basic life skills. Make coffee? No need to learn that with the plethora of single brew coffee makers out there. Read a map or get around a new city? Forget that – you have your phone! Talk to a co-worker? Never! There’s email for that!

You can also learn something new at the touch of a button (thank you YouTube!) so no need to pay attention in class or learn from your parents.

PROs – technology is creating medical miracles and allowing us to live our best lives

If we’re honest, as much as technology is keeping us in our seats, it’s also making sure we don’t end up buried 6 feet below ground. Technology has done wonders for modern medicine. Discussing all the ways in which technology has advanced our medical system would fill the internet so I won’t get into it here. Let’s just agree that it’s amazing.

Another huge pro is that technology has opened up our world of measurement and evaluation like never before! Sound super nerdy? It is. But a huge step in “fixing” poor lifestyle behaviours, is knowing what to fix. Until very recently we didn’t even know that sedentary behaviour was an issue. Now, largely with the advent of new activity monitors, we have a much better understanding of the how/what/where’s of sedentary behaviour and what we can do to intervene. Another area of measurement is sleep research! Population wide sleep interventions have traditionally been based on self-report data, but accelerometers can now measure a person’s activity 24/7.

Technology has also pushed app developers to create new platforms to act as lifestyle coaches, providing goal setting, tracking, and feedback through a smartphone (see Katrina’s blog[MM1] !) Some are obviously better than none, but if we can educate more people on the importance of healthy active lifestyles, I’d say that’s at least a small win!

Have any PROs or CONs from your own experiences with technology? We’d love to hear them!