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Quantified Self: A Movement With New Momentum

During a recent day of retrospection, I looked back at my health & fitness attitudes and approaches over the years. In what now seems a different life altogether, I was a military guy deployed all over the world. The local gym in whatever city (in whatever country) was the place to find a little slice of “normal”. Gyms are pretty much the same wherever you go, so going to the gym was a good way to have a sense of familiarity in an unfamiliar place. I “worked out”, body shaped, boxed – at the very least I went to the gym and pretended to do these things. I have to admit, sometimes I just went through the motions. One thing I always did was quantify. You probably did too – no really; think about it.

If you were like me, you took exercise logs to the gym to track your workouts. You had meal plans to ensure you got a balanced regimen of nutrients. You weighed, measured, and calculated portions, supplements, and body parts. I guess what I am getting at is this Quantified Self movement is not new. We have been trying to quantify our own anecdotal understanding of our health and fitness for a very long time. How long? I don’t know, google it. But trust me, it’s been a long time.

But now – wow! Right? We have home devices, devices we wear, and smartphone applications telling us all sorts of things about our bodies and behaviors (Do you agree some are just TMI?). Some of us check and track blood sugar or calories. We have information like body mass, bone density, and body water content collected by simply standing on a scale. It’s often like drinking from the fire hose, but it is awesome, right? Now, because of this plethora of self-quantification data available to us, many people are more accepting that our behaviors and our health are intimately linked. Again, this idea isn’t new. It’s just being more readily adopted, and more importantly, acted upon. A small but growing number of applications and devices are actually geared toward changing behavior, rather than just measuring it. Self-quantification becomes self-management along the lines of the old business adage that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

Take this thinking one step further into healthcare. Imagine the power of being able to self-quantify, or automatically quantify, your behaviors to an extent that you and your healthcare providers have a common mirror of your wellness; and applying the same technologies to help you change your behaviors. That power is world-changing! That, is what gets me excited about this “new” Quantified Self Movement.

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