Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Interview Out Of Sweden

I gave an interview recently to a Swedish outfit called Psykologifabriken (Psychology Factory). See here, for all of the Swedish speakers among you. Here is my edited and translated version:

Q. We want to change the small behaviors of people. What do you consider the first step: the smallest, easiest change to do, for improving one's health?

A. Every time you have a lengthy cell phone call do it while walking. Park farther away from your destination (e.g., the far end of parking lots, train stations, city blocks, etc.) on purpose, so you have to walk more. It's amazing how much mileage you'll accumulate in a year with these small changes.

In general, sleep more. A recent study found that sleep deprivation (6 or less hours per night) changes the way hundreds of genes are expressed. Sleep deprivation does measurable damage. Eat a paleo or Mediterranean diet (they're similar: veggies, fruits, fish, fowl, nuts; no sugar, hold back on the grains, etc.).

Stretch your personal limits, as in training for a triathlon (a short one) and skiing. Frequent small triumphs that represent physical and mental challenges are a part of our ancestral heritage.

Q. You work a lot with mobile applications, an area that is steady growing and fast developing. What is the best mobile app for health improvement according to you?

A. I can't play favorites, so I would say Endomondo Sports Tracker and Strava Cycling for various forms of outdoor exercise, and Alpine Replay for skiing. All three track you with GPS, produce maps, and effectively aggregate your data (e.g., calories burned, distance traveled) with a personal dashboard on the web. They all have comprehensive sharing of progress and goals.

Q. If you would describe your perspective on behavior change to our readers, how would it sound?

Tools, as in many mobile apps, can promote behavioral change in surprising ways. For example, I've noticed the "tail wagging the dog" effect of many small devices (i.e., you move more when you are wearing them, because you want to increase the health values they measure, similar to scoring points in a basketball game). For example, the FitBit has a little icon of a flower growing as you move more. Some people respond very well to the sharing/encouragement aspects of these sports tracking communities.

Feeling good and getting a clean health report is its own reward. Yet, we all have a responsibility to encourage friends and loved ones along a path to a healthier life.

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