Technology has become deeply integrated into our daily lives. From smartphones to video games to remote-controlled devices, technology now allows us to accomplish many tasks with minimal physical effort. While technology has provided many benefits, such as increased productivity and convenience, it has also affected people’s activity levels in both positive and negative ways.
Reduced Physical Activity Due to Technology Use
One of the biggest influences technology has had is reducing the amount of physical activity in people’s daily routines. Things that once required us to exert significant physical effort can now be accomplished through a few clicks on a smartphone or computer.
For example, communicating with friends and family no longer requires walking or driving to their homes or offices. We can now easily connect through text, email, social media, and video chat services. Online shopping allows us to browse and buy products while seated at our computers rather than walking around stores. Smart home devices like robotic vacuums, smart thermostats, and voice assistants further reduce small physical tasks around the house.
While eliminating mundane physical tasks gives us more free time, it also means we are sitting, lying down, or standing in one spot for prolonged periods. Excessive sedentary behavior has been linked to increased risks of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.
Rise in Mental and Social Activity Online
Paradoxically, technology has also introduced new forms of mental and social activity by enabling online connectivity and access to information. Browsing social media, reading news, playing games, and participating in online forums engages our minds and allows us to be social without being physically active.
While not comparable to exercise, increased mental stimulation and social interaction are markers of good mental health and emotional wellbeing. The key is finding balance between engaging online and still making time for in-person socialization and physical pursuits.
Enabling Remote Work and Learning
Technology has also transformed the workplace and classroom by enabling remote work and distance learning capabilities. Telecommuting allows employees to work productively from home without having to commute to an office each day. Remote education through online classes and lectures provides learning opportunities to students who might not otherwise have access.
Working and learning remotely eliminates commutes, lowering activity levels for those who previously walked or biked to work or school. However, it also frees up time that can be used for recreation and exercise if utilized properly. The flexibility of location enabled by technology is advantageous for better work/life balance.
Wearable Fitness Tracking Technology
In response to reduced activity levels, wearable tech companies have created devices and apps designed to get people moving more. Fitness trackers like Fitbit and Apple Watch monitor things like steps taken, calories burned, and heart rate. They incentivize wearers to hit daily activity benchmarks and compete on leaderboards.
Fitness apps complement wearables by offering guided workouts, yoga flows, and meditations people can perform from home. Features like exercise reminders and progress charts help motivate people to stay active throughout the day. While not perfect solutions, fitness trackers and apps leverage technology to reintroduce more physical activity into tech-filled lifestyles.
Active Video Games
For all their criticisms, video games are evolving to promote physical activity as well. Active and exergames require players to physically move, dance, or exercise to play the game rather than just use a controller. Games like Just Dance, Ring Fit Adventure, and Nintendo’s Wii Sports make players burn calories and improve flexibility, balance, and stamina.
Active games present an engaging option for exercise that competes directly against the temptation to be sedentary and play passive video games. While traditional physical activities like sports are still important, active video games provide another way for people to increase their activity levels.
Technology has both reduced and enabled activity among users. While the pandemic of physical inactivity is a serious concern, solutions are being developed to counteract and reverse unhealthy sedentary behaviors exacerbated by tech. Using technology intentionally for convenience but establishing habits, schedules, and spaces for physical activity and socializing in-person is important for long term health.
There are still many opportunities for technology companies and users to develop healthier relationships with their devices and services. Moderation and balance are key – the benefits of technology can still be realized while maintaining active, healthy lifestyles.