Healthy Tech News Round-up for the week of June 3, 2012

In this week's edition of Healthy Tech, we look at whether or not standing desks are a healthy option for workers, five ways mobile is impacting your well being and Nike and Microsoft partner up to turn the Kinect into a workout machine at E3 2012.

1. Are Standing Desks a Healthy Option for Workers?

I have a friend who swears by his standing desk, which he built himself — he tells me it's basically a keyboard and monitor raised by a couple heavy textbooks.

There are a number of more official solutions out there, but I've always wondered if there really was a health benefit to standing at your desk all day long. For instance, I've heard of trying to walk around your office when you're on the phone, but is literally standing all day good for you? Luckily, Wirecutter took a look at this idea and even made a few recommendations on what the best standing desks are.

Studies have shown that sitting all day is not necessarily good for you — your body has trouble metabolizing sugars and fats the less exercise (e.g. general walking) you do. Alternatively, another study says that standing eight to 10 hours a day can lead to "increased varicose veins, and a ninefold increase rate in carotid atherosclerosis (constricted arteries)." (But that's only if you literally are standing at your desk all day.)

Wirecutter provides some helpful recommendations on existing options you can purchase, as well as how you might go about building your own standing desk. While I recognize the desire to get more exercise in the workplace, I'd suggest you just carry a pedometer like the Fitbit or Nike FuelBand and make sure you take a couple hundred or even thousand extra steps a day. Maybe walk around the office for five minutes every time you decide to get a cup of coffee — or just take laps for fun. You'll be surprised how quick the steps add up, and how many calories you can burn. (As long as you're not walking to the vending machine.)

Via Wirecutter

2. How Mobile Technology Is Impacting Health

Mashable recently ran an interesting editorial by Edna Boone, the senior director of mHIMSS, the mobile health initiative behind HIMSS, the non-profit devoted to the improvement of health through technology.

According to Boone, "the reality is people increasingly access healthcare services via mobile or mHealth." For instance, a study in December 2011 found that there are currently 13,000 consumer mHealth apps in the iTunes store and a company predicted last month that by the end of 2012, mHealth apps will have been downloaded 44 million times.

Boone cited five ways mobile is changing health technology, which I'll give my own thoughts on here:

  1. The ability for consumers to track their own physical activity, whether it's steps, calories, runs and more. Many of those datapoints can be done simply with a cellphone and an app, but there's also an increasingly number of companies like Withings building medical devices that plug directly into your mobile or tablet device that allow you track your blood pressure — important for someone like me who suffers from genetically high blood pressure.
  2. The ability to help underserved medical facilities around the world get better access to medical reference materials and knowledge. For instance, a non-profit organization called Health eVillages donates mobile phones and iPads pre-loaded with medical reference technology "to clinics in at-risk and underserved regions." As I mentioned above, I wonder when companies designing these consumer-friendly devices for self-tracking your blood pressure and weight will start to donate these types of devices as well.
  3. The ability for patients to identify their symptoms and then connect with the right physician — thereby potentially skipping referrals. This is a no-brainer. If we're already self-tracking our own medical data, why shouldn't that then allow ourselves to self-diagnose so we pick the right specialist, saving both our doctors' times and our insurance companies' (and, most importantly, ourselves) money.
  4. The ability for hospitals to use mobile devices for registration, check insurance policies, etc. This isn't a surprise, but it sounds like we're still a well-ways off from completely electronic medical records.
  5. The ability for veterans to take advantage of mobile health services. This one really speaks for itself, similar to Health eVillages' iPads pre-loaded with medical apps, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is going to give the same to many of its healthcare workers so that they have all the information they need right at their fingertips, rather than relying on stacks of paper or repeated trips to an office.

Boone's piece is well worth the read. Check it out here.

Via Mashable

3. Nike and Microsoft Announce Nike+ Kinect Training

It was E3 this week, and pretty much every console maker and/or major publisher announced some sort of fitness game coming this year or next. But the one that caught our eye, was the announcement of Nike+ Kinect Training by both Microsoft and Nike.

Using Kinect, the program will be able to see how your body moves, and assess both your physical strengths and athleticism, as well as identify areas for improvements. Because of the accuracy of Kinect, says developers, Nike+ Kinect Training will know how accurate your movements and positions are in exercise, yoga and more. (In other words, I think they'll know if you're cheating.) Nike Fuel, the company's universal metric on how active you are, will help measure your progress in a way that you can compare against anyone in the world.

The Kinect training regimen will also plug into Nike's smartphone app and its actual FuelBand wristband. (And the company is already developing a dedicated Windows app, too.) You're not always exercising when you're at home in front of Kinect, so it's nice that you get credit when you're out, you know, seeing the actual sunshine.

Nike+ Kinect Training will be available on Kinect this holiday season. No word on pricing. There's a video detailing the product you can see here.

Via Microsoft

About Healthy Tech

This is the Healthy Tech Weekly, where guest columnist Alan Danzis reports on choice healthy technology news stories. Each week you'll discover new fitness gadgets, apps and going-ons, as well as what's around the corner, with medical innovations that will one day change the way you monitor and impact your overall health and well-being.

This feature is interactive: if you have questions for Alan, write us at Feel free to include a personal website or Twitter URL where we can find you at — if we use your question we'll include your link. Please write "Healthy Tech" in your subject line.

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