Healthy Byte: Next Gen Health Tech

2015 10-30a

If there’s one thing this digital health revolution has brought us, it’s information — information about our well-being, sent straight to our smartphones and even teleported to our wrists.

But what do we do with this information? How often do we look at a lit screen, scroll down, and mutter to ourselves, “Oh, that’s how I fix that”?

Bridging this information-action gap seems to be the goal of the next generation of health-tech products. Base-level information no longer cuts it — new products also recognize the importance of context, as well as feedback. Here are six innovators we’re watching closely.


FocusMotion keeps in mind that not all your workouts involve counting steps. (Photo: FocusMotion)

Say you’re in a yoga class, where the workout may not be as “obvious” to your fitness tracker as a traditional cardio class, which has lots of hopping around (and therefore, steps). Your tracker may only give you a couple steps’ worth of “credit,” even though you were hardly staying still the whole time. That’s where FocusMotion comes in.

The two-year-old, Los-Angeles-based company is the brainchild of business and engineering majors at the University of Michigan, who looked at the fitness tracker space as the Nike+ FuelBand emerged and “saw a huge opportunity to understand what people are doing contextually,” co-founder and chief operating officer Grant Hughes tells Yahoo Health. Unlike some other fitness trackers on the market, FocusMotion’s platform has the ability to recognize a pose and how long it’s held. “We wanted to give people ‘credit’ every time they go to a yoga class,” for example, Hughes explains.

But the logic applies beyond yoga — and, really, to anything involving movement. More recently, FocusMotion partnered with the Fitocracy app and the Pebble Time smartwatch, addressing the former’s pain point: It had an engaging social network, but its members were forced to manually input their workout data. Now, it has auto-tracking.

FocusMotion, which realized early on that it could gain more traction by partnering with other companies on its products, also has designs on guiding the physical therapy rehabilitation of post-op patients and even incorporating sensors in factory settings, where employees can be trained to work better, safer, and perhaps even faster. The use cases are unlimited. “Because we can understand what people are doing on a per-exercise, per-repetition, per-movement basis, developers can use the FocusMotion SDK to actually give people customized and targeted training plans based on what they want to achieve,” Hughes said. “And developers can monitor their progress and [how] they should intervene in order to help them get there quicker.”

Parsley Health

Robin Berzin, MD, the founder of Parsley Health. (Photo courtesy of Robin Berzin)

Robin Berzin, MD, who trained in medicine at Columbia University, was doing the kind of work she believed in, recommending natural therapies — not pills — to treat her patients. But Berzin had a financial problem. “I couldn’t afford myself,” she tells Yahoo Health, without a hint irony. “And all my friends wanted to see me, and they couldn’t afford me either. … Functional medicine was really for the 1 percent. And nobody was using data or technology to make the process more seamless or modern; nobody (was) tracking outcomes; and nobody was making it affordable. My goal was to change that.”

The result, launched in February this year, is her very own Parsley Health. The philosophy is similar to her previous work — global, 360-degree support to help patients lead a healthier life — but the costs are not. “Health care should work the way the rest of the world works,” Berzin says. “It’s in the Dark Ages, in terms of using digital communications.”

The subscription-based Parsley gives members five annual visits (and unlimited health coaching) for the price of one at her old employer, in addition to discounts at partners such as yoga studios and physical therapists. That manila folder with your medical history? At Parsley, it’s completely online and accessible to both you and your coach; attachments can be uploaded and downloaded. Parsley deliberately doesn’t have a phone number.

There’s talk of the New York-based company opening an office in California if its tech front-end keeps up with its growing community of patients, who receive personalized programs from Berzin. Some people also choose to enroll in Parsley’s seven-day and 21-day detox programs. “A lot of people feel stuck, and they accept that ‘stuck’ is the norm,” Berzin says. “We’re in this awesome era where technology is empowering us to have more information, and a service like Parsley is giving you, in these targeted ways, a coach, a doctor, a program — the ways to get unstuck.”


Athos produces clothing that tells you how you’re working out. (Photo courtesy of Athos)

Like many successful startups, Dhananja Jayalath’s came from thinking about money and time — more specifically, a lack of both. Then a student at the University of Waterloo in Canada, Jayalath and his classmate Chris Wiebe (the two would go on to co-found Athos) couldn’t afford a personal trainer, and they couldn’t spend all night in the gym teaching themselves. “With two guys working out together, there was also that sense of competition, of, ‘Oh, you’re doing more weight because you’re doing it wrong,’” Jayalath tells Yahoo Health.

Jayalath and Wiebe knew they wanted something that would produce valid data, which in turn would inform valid decisions. The end product: Tech clothing company Athos, which produces electromyography-powered clothing with sensors that can tell you, for example, if you’re overworking one muscle or underutilizing another, or breathing too hard or not hard enough. “We’re the (company) closest to telling you what you need to do,” Jayalath said. “Every piece of information you get is actionable.”

In the past year, Athos troubleshot the manufacturing of this smart-yet-machine-washable clothing. Consumers have taken to the product quickly — “knock on wood,” Jayalath says — though not all for the same reason. “Some people have worked out for many years and are using this to gauge how they’ve performed,” he said. “For another set of folks, it’s about accountability, like, ‘Yes, I worked hard enough, I hit my goal.’” What’s next for Athos? Iterating the software and varying the clothing styles to be smarter and more stylish.


Hyperice’s Vyper smart foam roller. (Photo courtesy of Hyperice)

Everything can be made smarter — even your foam roller. This is the stance taken byHyperice, which makes wearable recovery products for many problem areas, including your back and knees. Its Vyper roller vibrates at three speeds, has two hours of battery life, and claims to loosen and lengthen muscles before a workout (or to massage them after one).

The company often cites an August 2011 American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation study that concluded “vibration treatment was effective for attenuation of delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of range of motion after strenuous eccentric exercise.” And, hey, Hyperice’s technology is good enough for LeBron James’s right shoulder.

Mio Fuse

A wearable with superaccurate heart rate monitoring. (Photo: Mio Fuse)

On the surface, the Mio Fuse seems like just another device for your wrist — but runners in particular might find this one useful. Mio’s newest product takes advantage of the company’s EKG-level accuracy in heart rate monitoring, a boast that was confirmed by an April 2013 study conducted by a San Francisco State University researcher. (The device is smart, of course, because your heart rate can help you measure the intensity of your workout.)

The Fuse can also can track your pace during a run, while working the more traditional magic behind the scenes — number of steps and calories burned, plus app connectivity — when you’re not exerting yourself. It compares favorably to other training devices, although bicyclists may prefer the smart, heart rate-measuring helmet made by Israel-based LifeBeam.

Muse Headband

The Muse Headband in action. (Photo courtesy of Muse)

Picking up where meditation-focused mobile apps like Headspace and its own Calm leave off, the Muse Headband comes personally recommended by Berzin of Parsley Health. Using electroencephalography (EEG), which records electrical activity of the brain, Muse “passively detects changes in your brain” using the headband’s seven sensors. It also provides real-time feedback: Based on your brain signals, you’ll hear the sound of wind; an active mind causes louder gusts. And whether or not you’re an experienced meditator (can you start out with a three-minute meditation session?), the associated app tracks your “success.”

Yes, data is king, even in meditation.

Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte: Day 1030

Perfect PU

For anyone who has followed me for awhile knows that I am intrinsically a bit lazy. I don’t particularly hold a fondness for exercise nor do I particularly detest exercise. I nothing exercise in the sense that it is just something I have incorporated into my life in order to stay healthy. It’s kind of like kids and high school. There are those who spring out of bed everyday with a ear-to-ear smile who truly adored high school. There are those who absolutely hated every waking moment of high school. Then there are those of us mucks who endured it because it was a necessary milestone to endure. Fitness to me is just that – a necessity to staying healthy – not a choice.

This is the primary reason that my personal fitness motto is ‘biggest bang for my workout buck!’ (BBWOB) Essentially, I want to do the bare minimum in the least amount of time.  I need an exercise which will build muscle, tone / define, and can be accomplished in as few movements as possible. And let me just toss out a disclaimer that I am not certified personal trainer nor am I any sort of fitness expert. I do however, am a little nerdy and spend hours in researching the latest & most efficient workout trends so that I can always maximize the results with minimum effort. This BBWOB approach is just what has worked for me in not only keeping the near 40lbs off for 2+ years but it has given me body definition I never thought possible. So please keep in mind what works for me may not be the right answer for you.

Now that is out of the way …

When I was transitioning from weight loss to maintaining, I slowly shifted my workout from all cardio to cardio with some form of strength training. Now when I hear strength training, my knee-jerk reaction is to think of traditional weight lifting; which sucks the happiness right out of my soul! Not because I hold any malice inclination towards the activity but because I know enough to comprehend the amount of time required to invest in it (refer to first sentence). I have always found the ‘heavy / serious’ lifting section of any gym to be very intimidating. It just makes me feel absurdly out-of-place, awkward, and reminiscent of being back in junior high school at that very first boy-girl dance. You know the one where all the girls tries to play it cool making small talk on one side of the gym while the boys awkwardly contemplate the distinct possibility of a public ‘no’ on the other? YES – that level of awkwardness. I can’t even tell you why but the minute I step on to the thick rubber mats in the free weight section of any gym I immediately feel like a fish out of water.

Aside from a major case of the inept, for the Ordinary Jane / Joe who is only looking to tone and define, who is not looking to bulk & exponentially increase muscle mass, enter physique/body competitions, or have any aspirations to be a serious weight lifter, the abundant time investment seem to be a bit of an overkill. However, the core concept of working muscle groups was a good one and it inspired me to look for exercises which targets the largest muscle groups in one or two movements.

Enter compound exercises. Compound exercise is defined as “… any exercise that involves the use of more than one major muscle group at a time. Typically, there is one larger muscle group that ends up doing the majority of the work, and then one or more smaller muscle groups that are recruited secondarily” (Source: A Workout Routine). One of the major benefits of many staple compound exercises can be done equipment free also known as bodyweight strength training. The dynamic dual allows me to work multiple muscles at once and no or very little equipment required was a natural win-win for me.

So here is a sample of my typical workout:

  • WHAT: Elliptical in various squat positions
  • DURATION: 30 minutes on high resistance. When the resistance gets too easy I bump it up. Started at Level 2 now I am at Level 6.
  • MUSCLE GROUPS: Quads, Hamstring, Glutes, Calves, Heart (cardio)
  • BBWOB TIP: No Time to Read – This exercise should never be easy enough to leisurely read while on the elliptical. If you can then it’s time to bump up the resistance to the next level!

elip wTip

  • WHAT: Three forms of Push Ups (Tricep, Regular, Wide Arm) 
  • DURATION: As many as I can pump out without falling on my face. Typically I do about 30-65 push ups in total. 
  • MUSCLE GROUPS:  Chest, Shoulders, Back, Bicep, Tricep, Abs 
  • BBWOB TIP: Quality over Quantity – In order to maximize the benefits form matters. For the first few workouts, do push ups long ways of a mirror to check body positioning. Generally in the upright push up position, visually the body, arms and floor should form an almost right angle (See fitness model photo above).

pu wTip

  • WHAT: Three forms of Planks (Regular, High, Arms Up)
  • DURATION: 1 minute hold between each Push Up set
  • MUSCLE GROUPS: Abs, Chest, Shoulders, Upper Back, Bicep, Tricep, Quads, Hamstring, Glutes, Calves
  • BBWOB TIP: Form Matters – Again form is key. In addition to planking in front of a mirror try positioning the hands face down or face up.

  • WHAT: Three forms of Pull Ups (Bicep Curls, Shoulder Width, Wide)
  • DURATION: As many as I can pump out without falling on my face. Typically I do about 10-30 pull ups in total.
  • MUSCLE GROUPS: Lats, Shoulders, Back, Bicep, Tricep, Abs, Quads
  • BBWOB TIP: Quality over Quantity – Instead of trying to do a gazillion mediocre pull up, try doing 3 perfect ones. Pull up fast then release slowly for an extra umph to the lats.

TOTAL WORKOUT TIME: 45 – 55 minutes (depending if I have to wait for the pull up bar). Six times a week with one rest day.

As you can see, there is not one exercise where I am not working multiple major muscle groups. This is how I get the BBWOB.

P.S. Will be phasing out the planks and replacing with this in the next few weeks:

  • WHAT: Full Hanging (Knee) Leg Raise (Progression Goals: Hang for 20-30 seconds →  Knee raise →  Eventually full leg raise → Add twist for extra oblique focus)
  • DURATION: As many as I can pump out without falling on my face. Reps is TBD.
  • MUSCLE GROUPS: (Core) Upper & Lower Abs, Oblique, Lats, Hip Flexors, Quads, Back, Grip Strength

GOAL #1: Modified Hanging Leg Raise

ULTIMATE GOAL: Full Hanging Leg Raise


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