Just a few years ago, simply having an idea of your weight, body fat and blood pressure meant that you were informed and in-tune with your body. Now huge advances in the biological sciences, together with the rapid development of wearable technology and health apps, mean that there is a vast array of personal data available to you. From your genetic make up to your body composition, sleep quality to nutritional intake; you can understand, quantify and monitor your individual health and wellbeing.
So what is the quantified self?
Information is power. The quantified self is essentially about self-knowledge through self-tracking using technology.
“If you can measure it, you can change it”
By understanding your body’s own strengths and weaknesses and the impact your lifestyle is having on its function, you can act to improve your own fitness and protect against disease.
What information is available?
Omics are fields of biological study that include genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, nutrigenomics and more. It sounds like something out of science fiction but the developments in omics research are real. There have been significant breakthroughs, from finding measurable biomarkers that can indicate and monitor disease, to advances in personalized medicine and identifying individual disease susceptibility.
Our DNA affects our ability to use nutrients from our diets, our tendency to gain weight, our capabilities of dealing with the impact of stress and the elimination of toxins and our response to different forms of exercise. By understanding our own genetic make up, it is possible to identify how our needs may differ from typical recommendations, and modify our lifestyles to help improve health and performance.
Tracking devices can help measure and monitor calories ingested, steps taken, oxygen levels, blood glucose, sleep patterns, fitness levels and much more. The information can give us a better idea of how our lifestyle is impacting on our bodies and how to change for the better.
We used to use a pen, paper and a ‘Greatest Guide to Calories’ to tot up the food we ate. Now websites or apps like myfitnesspal can help you monitor not just calories consumed but also a break down of carbs, fat, protein and specific micronutrients so you can tailor your diet to your specific needs.
Exercise, sleep and activity trackers like Fitbit, Jawbone Up, Nike Fuelband and Bodymedia can help you accurately measure the amount of exercise you are doing, the quality of rest you are getting and your body’s response to activity. They can often be synced with a nutritional counter, so that you can better balance energy in against energy out.
Health and Wellness Apps
Smartphone apps and devices can be a cheaper way to continually measure your individual progress and make changes to achieve better health outcomes. Apple Health, SleepCycle, Cardiio and Happiness can help you track your daily activity, sleep, heart rate and even your mood.
With the growing amount of information and technology available, we can gain valuable insights into our own biology, and push the previously accepted limits of personal health.
The power to live a longer and better life really is in our hands.