June 9, 2015
If you want an idea of how the phone in your pocket and watch on your wrist is trying to change you, today’s Apple announcement is a great place to start. Apple’s new health metrics could help you tackle afternoon fatigue, carb cravings, and poor mood.
The company just announced new metrics for its expansive health data monitoring system, Healthkit. Apple will begin tracking behaviors essential for a happy mood and focused mind: hydration and ultraviolet light exposure. Of all the medical measurements that the world’s richest tech company could have announced at their much-hyped developers conference, they chose to a make a big deal out of little behaviors that the most health-obsessed people among us already do.
Apple is inching along in its pursuit of the perfect human: smarter, faster, and stronger, nudged along by little Apple buzzes throughout the day. Exactly 10 minutes before every hour, the Apple Watch already vibrates on countless wrists across the country and messages its users to “Stand Up!”
Reminding users to drink water or get some sun is likely the next iteration of Apple nudges.
Why Do Hydration and Sunlight Matter?
There’s a reason why health coaches constantly bark about keeping hydrated during the day: hydration can alter our mood and mind. “Even mild dehydration that can occur during the course of our ordinary daily activities can degrade how we are feeling,” explained Harris Lieberman, a research psychologist at the US Army’s Military Nutrition Division Research.
Generally speaking, mild dehydration is associated with “degraded mood, increased perception of task difficulty, lower concentration, and headache symptoms” — especially for women.
Ironically, to date, the best known device that measures hydration is not the Apple Watch, but its competitor, the Jawbone Up3. Unique metal skin contacts lining the inside of the Jawbone’s black wrist band contacts monitor the body for H2O.
Ultraviolet light (UV exposure) is important for similar reasons. Though we typically associate UV with evil cancer-causing rays, the body is designed to soak up the sun like a nutritional sponge. Along with Vitamin D, exposure to very bright sunlight boosts the vital neurotransmitter serotonin, which is important for reducing depression and carb cravings.
Indeed, research shows that folks who undergo light therapy (or get an adequate amount of sun in the winter) respond with reduced fatigue, afternoon slump, and the need to reach for sugary snacks.
Personally, I like to go outside and answer emails on my phone in the morning, which helps give me a coffee-like mental stimulation from the sun’s rays.
The iPhone already has a built-in ambient light sensor and could tell users if they’re getting to little (or too much) sun.
It’s still early days for Apple and their ambitious health project. But, the direction is definitely trending toward optimal wellness.
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