As many of you who read this blog know, I have been training lately. For what? Nothing in particular except for getting into better shape, looking and feeling better, but this training has gotten me back in touch with my body. In more ways than I could imagine. I was working out with a friend a couple of months ago who had a fancy watch on that was connected to a strap around his chest. When we were side-by-side on the treadmill, the machine picked up his heart rate and read it to me. He explained that he could keep better track of his progress in and out of the gym if he could record his heart rate.
As I paid more attention to my workout regime and progress, I started thinking about how useful this data would be to me and for my birthday I asked friends and family to give me money instead of gifts so I could put it towards one of these fancy watches. This weekend I finally bought a really nice heart rate monitor watch: And started to record...well...everything. At first it was a rollerblading journey, but then I got curious. Why was my average heart rate at 154 when I didn't feel very out of breath or tired? I recall my friends' being at 128 or so and he was sweating pretty good. So I ran it during preparing dinner. Average 91 bpm. Seems a little high, but not ridiculous for a relaxing activity. So I tested my levels and found out that my heart rate rises super quickly. And I don't get out of breath, either. It just goes from about 85/90 to 125/130 to 150/155 in a matter of a minute just from moving around a bit (taking stairs, doing pushups/situps, etc) and then drops just as fast when I stop. I also found out that I don't actually start breathing heavy until about 170 or so.
This has prompted me to go get that long overdue checkup next week. Something that I have been putting off for way too long. I have been working out steadily now for about 4 months. Taking care of myself. Eating better. Feeling great. But the heart rate is not normal. And I have noticed that I require more sleep than average over the past few years and the exercise hasn't made it better.
The point here isn't that I'm concerned about my health, but that I wouldn't know there is anything to be concerned about if I didn't have the data that the Polar heart rate monitor has given me. Which made me start thinking about how little data we have on our own bodies and how little we have to compare it against (if it wasn't for my fitness-buff friend, I wouldn't know that 155 is a really high mid-range heart rate). Is there anyone out there that has their health records back to the time they were born? Hell, I don't even have health records back to when my son was born. *Gulp* I may not even have health records back to the last doctor's visit I had. Now where was that?
Of course we've seen the sci-fi movies like Minority Report where this data in the wrong hands is a dangerous thing...and, well, there are multiple commercial entities trying to gather our health records together, but what about you and I? And where is our mechanism to start gathering this information without worrying about how it's being paid for? My heart rate monitor is a good start, but what about other biometrics? The cost of testing is coming down. It really is. I have my latest eye testing results. That was $50. I joined 23 and Me a couple of years back. A little steeper at $399, but I'm sure it will come down as more people join. Now where to store it? Analyze it? Is there an SMS alert I can set up if something seems out of place?
Frankly, the thought of having this additional information about my body is kind of exciting. Something I'm willing to pay for. To monitor. If I knew the effects of that poutine I had at 3 am a couple of weeks ago were in real time, I would probably watch what I put in my body. I would walk more. I wouldn't have that extra drink. I would definitely never bum a cigarette when drinking. But right now it's invisible and even though I kind of get the effects of my personal abuse, I keep abusing.
I wonder how much more effective self-monitoring would be in disease prevention? Cancer? Obesity? Heart disease? Would we start to become numb to the information or would it actually make us healthier? I think it's the latter. The more I can look inside of my body, the less I want to abuse it. The new gaming becomes how to achieve the perfect score on health. Better than any badges, getting an all-time high score on the state of my lungs would be something to tweet about.
We are just at the beginning of how important data is going to become in our lives. From our bodies to what we spend to our location to our relationships and beyond. We are just starting to realize how us being aware of, owning and controlling our data is going to be the most powerful part of our future.