As teachers we spend a LOT of time figuring out the best things out there to help out our students, but we often forget to turn things around and figure out what’s best for ourselves. I’m as guilty as anyone of spending hours working on my nice, pale, screen-tan and fingering at a bowl of kettle chips for lunch.
After reading Martin Seligman’s excellent book, Flourish, I realized that I needed to be proactive about being active, and what better time to discuss it than the New Year? Today I’m going to discuss some technology to help all of us keep on course with the healthy lifestyle we all know we need in order to offer the most that we have to our students.
In 2013 we saw more news reports on “wearable technology” than ever before. This is because people are starting to realize that if we integrate reminders about our health into the fabric of our daily lives, we are more prone to think about it and to remind ourselves to keep it as a priority. Let’s take a look at a couple of wrist technologies that might help you stay in motion as we step into the new year.
Why are you telling me about it?
I am not an athlete, and I tend to prefer burying my head in a book (or laptop) to running laps. With the obvious exception of P.E. teachers, I know that many of you are also the same.
Monitoring your movement won’t turn you into a bronze god or goddess overnight, but it will create a mini-habit to pay attention to your health. Unfortunately, for many of us, our health is the first thing we sacrifice for our careers. The irony, of course, is that we NEED our health more than anything else to do our jobs effectively.
As teachers, especially, we have to stay keep fit in order to make sure our brains are working so that we can be of service to our students. Again, we don’t have to be carved like greek statues, but research shows that even moderate movement throughout the day helps keep our brains active and more flexible.
Alright, I know I’ve got to stay active, but I’ve tried it all and frankly I’m just too busy.
Fair point. I said the exact same thing. The brilliant point about wearable technology is that it doesn’t (initially) force you to make more time. Instead it encourages you to reinvent your time to align with your goals. At my school I have a 1 hour lunch break. I used to jump in the car, grab lunch, float around for a little while, then drive back.
Now I walk 20 minutes to the nearest mini mall, sit for a 20 minute square meal, and then walk the 20 minutes back. All I do is load up my phone with a good audiobook or podcast and I’m set.
Let’s take a look at some of the better options out there right now:
The UP Band by Jawbone (pictured above) is a simple band created as a way to monitor both your movement and your sleep. In short – it’s a fancy pedometer. Slap it on your wrist and you can quickly see how many steps you’ve taken in the day and compare it against your goal. Once you plug it into your smartphone or tablet you can use it as a way to keep track of your regular movements and your sleep patterns.
I got one of these earlier in the year and loved it. The interaction with the app is great and it really does help me keep my mind on my movement. The brilliant thing is that it gives you small gains toward achievable goals in getting both enough exercise and enough sleep.
The Fitbit runs very similarly to the UP band and the two are constantly at each other’s heels for better accuracy and smoother apps. I haven’t used the Fitbit myself, but for many it’s got a better appeal simply because of the lower price point ($100).
The basis is less talked about in this realm, but I kind of think of it as the next level up. I just got one of these for Christmas and so I’m still playing around with it, but I love that it’s a watch which keeps the vitals directly at my fingertips. If I’m tracking my motion, calories burned, or heart rate, they’re all only a tap away.
The app is great, too, as it works on an unlocking gamified type of system; the more you use it the more options you have to unlock new challenges for yourself. While the layout and tracking hour to hour doesn’t seem as easy to read for me, I’ve found myself much more motivated in being able to see my main information right on my wrist.
If you’re not in the market for wearable technology, or you figure you’re just going to hold out until Apple releases its iWatch (assuming you’ve been holding your breath for the last year-plus since the rumors started), you may simply wish to improve your health habits using some apps on your phone. Each of the items mentioned above, of course, have their own apps, but let’s take a look at a few other apps that might encourage you to move a little more, or go to sleep a little earlier:
For a long time this was my little secret to waking up happy. Simply give it a range of time you’re hoping to wake up at – for example between 6:00 to 6:30 am – slide your phone under your pillow and doze off. Using the sensors and accelerometer in your iPhone, the app will keep track of how much you move during your sleep (deep sleep makes you catatonic, so when you are perfectly still for stretches it recognizes you’re way under). As morning time approaches, the app recognizes when you move out of deep sleep and chooses that time to begin to wake you up. SOOOO much better than a jarring alarm clock.
Lift is a little harder to describe, but the idea is that it helps you set small steps which turn into milestones which help you achieve your goals. Lift is not purely about your health, it’s basically meant to help you develop good habits, not limited to – but definitely including – health. The nice thing about Lift is that it’s designed to help motivate you through daily use and also a community of supporters. If you’re the type that finds you have a hard time developing habits (like grading your students’ papers promptly…) then Lift is definitely for you.
My Fitness Pal is for people who are serious about calorie counting. This is a totally free tool with a pretty big community. I understand that there are a lot of people who are put off by calorie counting. I understand because I AM one of those people. However, I know that many of you may be looking for a solution just like this with a helpful community. If building healthier eating habits is part of your goal to improve yourself next year, My Fitness Pal definitely deserves a look.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include some exercise in mindfulness amongst all the technologies to help you achieve a more well-rounded and healthier self. I used to be a “Yeah, meditation is cool, but I don’t have time for it” type of person. I had done it a few times, with fairly nice results, only to again say to myself “Well, maybe if I have time in the next couple of days.”
Headspace has really helped me get my mind around meditation more and has done so using many of the same principles as above; Small steps into a brain with better awareness. The system is very well designed and to start with you only have to carve out 10 minutes. I like to do it first thing when I wake up, but you may find another time is better for you. Also, if your students are getting to that “final straw,” you’d be surprised how many straws some meditation can help you replenish.
Does all this really make a difference?
Yes. Adding a little bit of activity to your day and knowing a bit about your sleeping patterns may not seem like magic bullets, but I’ve found that it decreases my stress, allows me to have my “me” time, and makes me more prepared to engage with those around me.
The point here is not that you have to go buy a band, but that you do need to be paying attention to your body. Not only what it’s telling you, but what you’re telling it. You may find that small adjustments lead to big changes.
(Top image via Jawbone’s Pinterest)