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Wednesday, October 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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House call: Technology can be good for your health

By Dr. Bob Riggs For The Spokesman-Review

Getting and staying healthy can feel like a second job. In some ways it is, but your supervisor is your body and the consequences of doing your job improperly can be chronic fatigue, illness or injury.

You probably use technology at work to make your job easier. Why not do the same with your health? There are websites, YouTube channels and apps available to help guide you, track your health statistics and inspire and encourage you. Best of all, many of them are free.

When it comes to technology and the internet, the amount of information out there can be dizzying. My first and most important bit of advice about your health and these resources is to be choosy. Learn as much as you can about the person or people behind them. What kind of qualifications do they have? Who is paying them to provide the advice? Is the advice based on facts or opinion? One person’s experience or hundreds? Can you find other well-known sources that back up and reinforce those facts? Be critical in your reading and thinking.

Now for some ideas, starting with what’s closest to home – your health plan or provider’s office. Most offer online services and medical records to track your labs, medications, treatment plans and more. Some offer online or virtual visits, emailing with your doctor and online scheduling. These services save you time, ensure accuracy and instant access to information and are often less expensive than a trip to the doctor.

You can find websites with healthy and simple recipes, exercise regimes to follow, advice for developing good sleep routines, tips to improve your mental health and more. Some websites have online groups you can join where participants encourage each other to meet health goals, talk about specific life challenges or share personal experiences on just about anything you want to know about.

If you’d like to build strength and flexibility, there are YouTube channels that have nothing but yoga videos. Looking for something to get your heart rate up? Search for aerobics videos, cycling videos to watch as you pedal your stationary bike or other videos for just about any kind of indoor exercise. Maybe you want to work on your mental health. Meditation and mindfulness videos help you tune in or relax. One of my patients uses technology to create the sound of falling rain that helps her get a full night’s sleep.

Perhaps the best technology is what you take with you, like apps for your smartphone. Want to track your health statistics, how far your daily walk is or what the quality of your sleep is each night? Easy. You can also get apps that essentially nag you to get up and move around once an hour or remind you to exercise every day. You can get apps that prompt you to rate your mood and keep notes about how you’re feeling and why. There are apps that turn health goals into a game, kind of like World of Warcraft.

To me, some of the more exciting apps are the ones that help you make better food choices at the grocery store. There are apps that scan the barcode of an item and give you additional nutrition information that is not on the label. There are apps that will suggest a healthier alternative when you scan the barcode on that bag of potato chips. How about an app full of recipes that makes a grocery list for you based on your dietary needs? Those are out there, too.

Try some of these free and readily available tools to get motivated and take care of yourself every day.

Bob Riggs is a family medicine physician practicing at Kaiser Permanente’s Riverfront Medical Center. His column appears biweekly in The Spokesman-Review.

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