Health And Fitness Trackers Are Becoming A Lot More Granular
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Health And Fitness Trackers Are Becoming A Lot More Granular

Many people have become accustomed to devices quantifying their steps or heart rate. That’s just the beginning.

By Laura Cooper
Wed, Jan 19, 2022 12:06pmGrey Clock 5 min

From counting 10,000 steps to reminding when to stand or take a few deep breaths, many Americans have become accustomed to devices quantifying their progress toward health goals. Is this just the beginning?

Businesses and researchers are dreaming up the next generation of methods to create and quantify personal data, with the aim of using the information to boost health and happiness. Some technologies are in their infancy, including machines that sit in the home, passively scanning for early signs of illness. Others are in limited use. Still others, such as smart thermometers and blood-glucose monitors, are widespread, but their proponents see untapped potential in the data they collect.

These advances bring concerns about security, as sensitive information is beamed up to the cloud, and privacy, especially in cases where manufacturers own data about their customers’ health that the customers themselves can’t access. It’s still too early to know exactly which metrics correspond to improved health, or whether zealously tracking them itself has negative impacts.

Natural Medicine

Research has shown that time outdoors can benefit well-being—but do certain natural settings have an outsize effect? NatureQuant, based in Bend, Ore., is aiming to quantify time in nature. This week, the company released NatureDose, an app that tracks people’s time indoors and outdoors as they go about their daily routines. The app can map the types of nature a person passes, whether a lake or tree-lined city street, through phone sensors including GPS and accelerometers. That data is paired with NatureQuant’s mapping systems to determine a person’s proximity to natural elements. The app is being tested in clinical trials in universities, with the aim of determining how time in nature impacts anxiety and depression. Eventually, the company hopes, health professionals could use the data to prescribe time in nature, even tailoring recommendations by lifestyle, season and locale. For example, the app could alert users with vitamin D deficiencies to the best time to catch UV rays.

Watch Your Mouth

Dentists have long advised brushing teeth for two minutes twice a day. In the future, quantifying dental data, such as tracking acidity in the mouth, may help forecast cavities before they happen and draw connections between oral health and other health issues. For example, night guards or other devices that measure specific biomarkers in saliva could uncover disease, such as inflammation of the gums that is linked to diabetes, says Dr. Corneliu Sima, an assistant professor of oral medicine, infection and immunity at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Camera-enabled toothbrushes could serve as oral scanners, beaming real-time information to dentists, who could use machine learning to sift through the data to determine whether patients need to come in for a visit, he says.

Body of Water

The well-known admonition to drink eight glasses of water a day has persuaded many Americans to lug around water bottles in the hopes of satisfying their hydration needs. Hydration, after all, has been shown to benefit brain function, heart health, digestion and other bodily functions. Is eight glasses really the right number for everybody? In the future, connected devices could help assess how much water is the optimum amount for each individual. The PÜL SmartCap, a mobile-connected water-bottle cap, recently hit the market promising to help consumers set goals and track their hydration levels with an accompanying app.

In the Blood

Some people are wearing blood-glucose monitoring devices, which continuously measure blood sugar via a small device worn on the arm, even if they don’t have diabetes. Elevated or spiking blood sugar is linked to heart disease, stroke and diabetes, so proponents of blood-glucose monitors say that tracking blood sugar could help wearers personalize their diets and live healthier lives. The Levels software, for example, allows users to watch their glucose levels on an app as they eat different foods, exercise and sleep. Ultimately, the company envisions people having several biosensor streams to help them optimize cell function and predict disease, says Dr. Casey Means, the chief medical officer of Levels.

The Wearable You Don’t Need to Wear

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a wall-mounted, laptop-size box that sits in the home, analyzing electromagnetic waves around residents as a noninvasive way of gauging health metrics. Using machine learning, the device can track breathing, heart rate, movement, gait, time in bed and the length and quality of sleep—even through walls. Health organizations, hospitals and medical schools are using the device. It is being used in clinical studies for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and immune diseases and was used to monitor Covid-19 patients in isolation during the first wave of the pandemic. Dr. Dina Katabi, a professor at MIT’s computer science and artificial intelligence lab who led the project, says the boxes could be used in the homes of seniors and others to help detect early signs of serious medical conditions, and as an alternative to wearables.

 

Taking the Temperature

Thermometers are ubiquitous in households across the country. They are often the first medical tool that people consult once they start feeling sick. Aggregating those temperature readings and associated symptoms could someday quantify and diagnose illness at a population level. In the coming years, smart thermometers may be able to help determine whether patients have particular strains of flu or Covid-19, based on symptoms, temperature and other data collected in the area. Inder Singh, the founder of Kinsa, a San Francisco-based smart-thermometer company, says this kind of diagnosis could allow patients to bypass doctor visits and get medication quickly. Kinsa is working to turn its smart thermometers, introduced in 2013, into a system that detects outbreaks and tells people how and when they should seek treatment. The network has about 2.5 million thermometers in the U.S. so far.

Old Dog, New Tricks

Pet owners, including the many who adopted animals during the pandemic, are seeking to quantify the health of their furry friends as well. Whistle Fit, for example, offers a glimpse into a possible future for connected pet care. The 1.5-inch device affixes to a dog’s or cat’s collar and monitors its health, fitness and behaviour. Sensors collect data about a pet’s daily routine. Algorithms analyze the data to detect behavior tied to well-being, including playing, running, sleeping, exercising and drinking. After establishing a baseline, Whistle can determine whether a pet’s behaviour is changing. The owner can set exercise goals based on breed, age and weight. The company provides summaries to share with vets and alerts around behavioural problems like excessive licking or scratching.

The Right Amount of ZZZs

A plethora of products is already on the market to help people sleep. More futuristic offerings include robots that help lull patients to sleep with breathing exercises and “digital sleeping pills,” beamed through headbands that play music or soothing sounds when they sense users are about to wake up, says Dr. Seema Khosla, the medical director at the North Dakota Center for Sleep. Going forward, it would be helpful to have a bespoke assessment of how much sleep each individual needs, as opposed to the one-size-fits-all recommendation of eight hours, she says. Devices will likely be less clunky in the coming years, she says, sitting by the bedside with less need for physical contact with the sleeper.

 

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: 13th, January, 2022.



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Is ‘Rizz’ the Secret to Getting Ahead at Work?

Whether you call it charisma, charm or magnetism, some people seem like naturals. Good news: It can be learned.

By Rachel Feintzeig
Mon, Jul 22, 2024 4 min

Great leaders have it. Gen Z has a new word for it. Can the rest of us learn it?

Charisma—or rizz , as current teenage slang has anointed it—can feel like an ephemeral gift some are just born with. The chosen among us network and chitchat, exuding warmth as they effortlessly hold court. Then there’s everyone else, agonising over exclamation points in email drafts and internally replaying that joke they made in the meeting, wondering if it hit.

“Well, this is awkward,” Mike Rizzo, the head of a community for marketing operations professionals, says of rizz being crowned 2023 word of the year by the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s so close to his last name, but so far from how he sees himself. He sometimes gets sweaty palms before hosting webinars.

Who could blame us for obsessing over charisma, or lack thereof? It can lubricate social interactions, win us friends, and score promotions . It’s also possible to cultivate, assures Charles Duhigg, the author of a book about people he dubs super communicators.

At its heart, charisma isn’t about some grand performance. It’s a state we elicit in other people, Duhigg says. It’s about fostering connection and making our conversation partners feel they’re the charming—or interesting or funny—ones.

The key is to ask deeper, though not prying, questions that invite meaningful and revealing responses, Duhigg says. And match the other person’s vibes. Maybe they want to talk about emotions, the joy they felt watching their kid graduate from high school last weekend. Or maybe they’re just after straight-up logistics and want you to quickly tell them exactly how the team is going to turn around that presentation by tomorrow.

You might be hired into a company for your skill set, Duhigg says, but your ability to communicate and earn people’s trust propels you up the ladder: “That is leadership.”

Approachable and relatable

In reporting this column, I was surprised to hear many executives and professionals I find breezily confident and pleasantly chatty confess it wasn’t something that came naturally. They had to work on it.

Dave MacLennan , who served as chief executive of agricultural giant Cargill for nearly a decade, started by leaning into a nickname: DMac, first bestowed upon him in a C-suite meeting where half the executives were named Dave.

He liked the informality of it. The further he ascended up the corporate hierarchy, the more he strove to be approachable and relatable.

Employees “need a reason to follow you,” he says. “One of the reasons they’re going to follow you is that they feel they know you.”

He makes a point to remember the details and dates of people’s lives, such as colleagues’ birthdays. After making his acquaintance, in a meeting years ago at The Wall Street Journal’s offices, I was shocked to receive an email from his address months later. Subject line: You , a heading so compelling I still recall it. He went on to say he remembered I was due with my first child any day now and just wanted to say good luck.

“So many people say, ‘Oh, I don’t have a good memory for that,’” he says. Prioritise remembering, making notes on your phone if you need, he says.

Now a board member and an executive coach, MacLennan sent hundreds of handwritten notes during his tenure. He’d reach out to midlevel managers who’d just gotten a promotion, or engineers who showed him around meat-processing plants. He’d pen words of thanks or congratulations. And he’d address the envelopes himself.

“Your handwriting is a very personal thing about you,” he says. “Think about it. Twenty seconds. It makes such an impact.”

Everyone’s important

Doling out your charm selectively will backfire, says Carla Harris , a Morgan Stanley executive. She chats up the woman cleaning the office, the receptionist at her doctor’s, the guy waiting alongside her for the elevator.

“Don’t be confused,” she tells young bankers. Executive assistants are often the most powerful people in the building, and you never know how someone can help—or hurt—you down the line.

Harris once spent a year mentoring a junior worker in another department, not expecting anything in return. One day, Harris randomly mentioned she faced an uphill battle in meeting with a new client. Oh!, the 24-year-old said. Turns out, the client was her friend. She made the call right there, setting up Harris for a work win.

In the office, stop staring at your phone, Harris advises, and notice the people around you. Ask for their names. Push yourself to start a conversation with three random people every day.

Charisma for introverts

You can’t will yourself to be a bubbly extrovert, but you can find your own brand of charisma, says Vanessa Van Edwards, a communications trainer and author of a book about charismatic communication.

For introverted clients, she recommends using nonverbal cues. A slow triple nod shows people you’re listening. Placing your hands in the steeple position, together and facing up, denotes that you’re calm and present.

Try coming up with one question you’re known for. Not a canned, hokey ice-breaker, but something casual and simple that reflects your actual interests. One of her clients, a bookish executive struggling with uncomfortable, halting starts to his meetings, began kicking things off by asking “Reading anything good?”

Embracing your stumbles

Charisma starts with confidence. It’s not that captivating people don’t occasionally mispronounce a word or spill their coffee, says Henna Pryor, who wrote a book about embracing awkwardness at work. They just have a faster comeback rate than the rest of us. They call out the stumble instead of trying to hide it, make a small joke, and move on.

Being perfectly polished all the time is not only exhausting, it’s impossible. We know this, which is why appearing flawless can come off as fake. We like people who seem human, Pryor says.

Our most admired colleagues are often the ones who are good at their jobs and can laugh at themselves too, who occasionally trip or flub just like us.

“It creates this little moment of warmth,” she says, “that we actually find almost like a relief.”

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