Technology in Sport – Is it cheating?

Today I have found an interesting question raised by Professor Steve Haake. He poses the question whether technology in sports can be considered as cheating.

He explains that there are different factors that influence the score of an athlete. Globalization used to have a great impact. By this we mean: population growth, nutrition, coaching, professionalization,… These factors have spread around the globe, when one coach finds new techniques they are been copied by other coaches in no time. In our times with internet and camera’s everywhere, it is hard to do something revolutionary without everyone noticing.

With this in mind one can notice that sport results are getting closer to a limit. A limit of what is “humanly possible”. For example I think it is safe to say that people will never be able to run a marathon in 5minutes. So the future for sports isn’t looking bright if we look at it from this perspective. National/world records will become scarce. This could not only become demotivating for the athletes but also pretty boring for the spectators.

Then what about technology? It is no secret that technology enhances sport performance. But whether or not it is considered cheating all depends on what the rules are. Rules are not as static as you might think. They need to evolve together with the new technologies. Acceptance the technology depends for example on whether or not the technology is accessible for everyone equally.

So is technology cheating ? In my opinion not. As long as the rules are adapted. There needs to be a balance between keeping the sport interesting and challenging and at the same time give all the competitors a fair chance. In some way you could say that technology will determine the future of sports.

Security and privacy

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But what about security and privacy ?

I found an article on “The Verge” where they introduce the blackphone. It is an Android phone, well at least an adapted version of it. They tried to improve the poor privacy characteristics that Android has. In some way they succeed, by offering the user more control over what a specific app can access. It also features apps where you can make encrypted phone calls or send encrypted text messages. However this can only be done between the special app or between blackphone. For this service you even need to pay. This certainly limits the applicability. Will users even bother to use such an app.

But the idea of a smarphone that needed to be specifically designed for privacy scares me a bit. Why aren’t all smartphones more careful with our privacy. It seems that all these benefits of smartphones come with a cost. A great cost! The fact that governments and authorities spy on people is one thing. We protest vigorously every time such a scandal meets the light. But those actions can still somehow be related to national security. On the other hand when apps (and therefore companies) spy on our actions or log our personal information we seem to be okay with it? It seems that we accept that this is a consequence of using the app. Or are we not aware of what companies can and will do with our information?

So maybe it is not such a great idea to put all your daily activities or habits inside an app. At least not until privacy on smartphones is rethought.

Walking breaks aren’t really breaks…

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In a previous blogpost “Does technology make us sit more?”  I briefly mentioned some solutions to avoid a sedentary lifestyle or sedentary work. In a comment on the blog someone agreed that walking breaks are a good solution for this problem. So it made me thinking about all the other possible advantages of walking breaks. After searching the net I found an interesting blog from Dan Pallotta (An expert in nonprofit sector innovation and a pioneering social entrepreneur. He also gave a TED talk that is one of the 100 most-viewed TED talks of all time). In his blog he says that walking breaks aren’t only good for calming the mind or as some kind of exercise, it also dramatically increases productivity.  He also refers to a study that concluded that people who go for a walk or ride a bike four times a week think more creatively than people who sit down the whole day. His own experiences were that the best ideas resulted from walks outside and that walking break are ideal to talk things out with employees. Apparently Steve Jobs preferred to have his serious business conversations while walking.

I think that some conversations are more natural while walking. It looks more relaxed than a one-on-one conversation in an office. I also think it gives the conversation a different and more open atmosphere.  I believe that walking break are an asset for productivity and that a clear mind and some fresh air could re-boost your work. From my own experience I noticed that the best ideas pop into your head when your mind is free and you are relaxed instead of stressed and under pressure. So like the title indicates, walking breaks aren’t really breaks, they can be essential for your productivity.

So, do you believe in the benefits of walking breaks? Are do you think it won’t affect your productivity?

Health apps

As yanickvanhoeymissen2014 stated sport is not enough to live healthy, you also need to look out what you eat. 

 has posted some studies about research of our habits and influence by advertisement. But what can we do for ourselves? I’ve been looking for some health apps.

With these apps you can keep track of what you eat during the day and adjust/control your eating pattern.

These apps have become so popular that even the British National Health Service (NHS) devoted a whole website to these apps. ( the NHS Health apps library )

Even they can’t deny the benefits for some of these apps. They  want to give everyone an idea what great apps are out there. Categorized by relevance. 

I think that some of these apps can definitely improve your eating pattern simply by making you aware of what you eat and when. You get an overview of how many calories you have eaten, or how many you still can eat that day. 

I’ve also found a really interesting app myself, Fooducate. It is a library of food and drinks where you can look up how many calories, fat, sugar,… all the nutritious facts. Nothing really new there, al lot of apps have a database similar like this one. But the nice added bonus here is that it fully integrated with a “social environment”, people can comment about the products, what they like/dislike. This translates to a percentage of user that like/dislike the product. In this way you not only know its health but also delicious. The product also gets a label ranging from D, D+, C-,… all the way to A. This is based on an algorithm build on the nutritious facts. It even makes a difference between minimally processed, “real” food and processed (with a lot of additives) food. Unfortunately this app is not yet available in Europe, only in the american app store. I’m eager to test it so i’m looking forward to it being released here.  

Does technology make us sit more?

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BBC news published an article back at the end of 2012 about the relation between sitting time and health. The article was written according to a study done by scientists from Leicester and Loughborough Universities.

According to the researchers people have too much things they can do sitting, like watching tv, using a computer,… Not everything that can be done seated is because of some technology. But lot of technologies made people sit more. Tv, computer, tablet,… are some examples of technologies that are a cause of the sedentary lifestyle of some people. This is not the only cause and not applicable for every person, but it is a cause for lot’s of people. The study, led by Dr Emma Wilmot, says that even if you go to the gym after work or after doing a sedentary activity for a long time, it still remains bad and even harmful.
The study also concludes that those who sat the most had a higher risk of diabetes, hart diseases and even death than those who sat the least. People who are on their feet whole day, like for example a waiter, had less risk.
A problem can be that people might think they are healthy because they exercise 30 minutes a day, but if the other 23,5 hours include an unhealthy lifestyle, they aren’t as healthy as they think.
There are some solutions the researchers give like reducing tv viewing, breaking up long periods at the computer, having a standing desk, walk during lunch break,…
I believe that sitting all the time is indeed bad for people, but sometimes people have no choice. If you have to work at a computer all the time, it’s difficult not to sit the whole day on your desk. A standing desk can be exhausting and people won’t be motivated to use that. Taking some kind of walking breaks can be a solution. You have to take a few during the day to be effective, but the advantages can be really important. Apart from taking walking breaks, I think it’s almost unavoidable for some tasks or jobs to stands up while working. But every thing that can help should be considered, so lets start with reducing the amount of time we watch tv. Do you think you could stop watching tv or would you consider reducing your tv watching time if you know it is better for your health?

Influence of advergames on what children eat

Exercising is not the only thing people have to do to be healthy, food is also important. If you want to be fit and healthy it’s essential to eat the right things. Unfortunately this is not easy and technology doesn’t help to achieve that goal. Advertisements of various products make us want to buy  them. Most of the time unhealthy food has the best adds. For example, coca-cola, Mc Donalds,… The advertisements are everywhere, on billboards, tv, websites,… Advertisers try to anticipate on different ways to reach people. Technology makes it easier to achieve this and to influence people and especially children. Children are an easy target for marketeers.

A popular way of advertising nowadays are advergames. These are online games on websites of companies that people (especially children) can play. The goal for these games is to introduce children to their products. In the game, the product is everywhere and the company logo and goods are unavoidable. According to a study of a team led by Jennifer Harris (director of Marketing Initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University), 38% of the companies had created advergames and about 1.2 million youngsters visit the company website with advergames. Children spent 88% more time on websites with advergames than on other websites.

In another part of the study, the researchers let some children play advergames for unhealthy products and some had to play advergames for healthy products. They had the choice of healthy and unhealthy snacks that they could eat during the game. The result was that both group at the same amount of unhealthy snacks, but the group of the healthy advergames ate 50% more healthy snacks. It was asif they remembered the lessons of the healthy advergame. This indicates that these advergames can influence children, which can be good or bad.
I think that unhealthy products have more or better advertisements and therefore are often more attractive to children. I also think there are more advergames for unhealthy products than for healthy products. It’s a good example of how technology can influence the health of people, even if people (children) don’t notice it. Children often don’t know what food is healthy or unhealthy. They are easy to influence and the advergames make use of it. The advergames can also be use in advantage of health,II think more effort has to be done to promote healthy products and in this case advergames would be a good way to unconsciously influence children in a good way.
Article:
Can Online Games Influence What Kids Eat? by Alice Park in Time Magazine
Link:

The Mental Benefits of Sports

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So maybe it is time to talk about why we should start sporting. We all know about the physical benefits. But what about other factors? In the article mentioned below they talk about mental benefits.

There are 5 major benefits.

Improve Mood: 

Physical activity should release brain chemicals which have a positive influence on our mood. Team sports not only provide a challenge to improve your fitness, but they can provide social benefits because you can connect with teammates and friends in a recreational way.

 Improve Concentration:

Sporting three to five times a week for at least 30minutes can be enough to keep your thinking, learning and judgement sharp.

Reduce Stress and Depression: 

While reducing stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol), exercise makes us produce more endorphins. It helps you cope with stress and depression, and makes you feel more relaxed.

 Improve Sleep:

Regular exercise improves your sleeping pattern. You sleep faster and deeper. Which again helps improve your mood.

Boost Self-Confidence:

When you are working hard to get better results or improve your scores, you are building on your self-esteem. Especially when all this hard work pays off. You are proud of what you have achieved and feel in control. You feel like you can take on the world and all of its challenges.

I sure believe that these benefits exist when you exercise or sport regularly. Maybe some of them are a bit hard to measure. Like how can you tell that you have more endorphins in your body? From personal experience I can tell that sport really can reduce stress, it gives me a way to escape all responsibilities and deadlines for a moment.

Article:

http://www.healthline.com/health/mental-benefits-sports

Can games increase the motivation to exercise?

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There are a lot of exercise games available for most of the gaming consoles. For example Xbox has the kinect, Playstation has Playstation Move and the Wii is all about movement sensors. These accessories lead to games that need movements (let us not consider finger movement as a movement here) from different parts of the body to interact. They convert lazy gaming to active gaming. This doesn’t say anything about what people like the most, but it gives people the choice about their gaming experience.

In the paper “Using games to increase gaming motivation” from Jeffrey Yim and T.C. Nicholas Graham, a research is done on what motivates people to play these active exercise games and not on how to implement a realistic exercise game. According to the writers of the paper they were one of the first that tried to tie the exercise motivation literature to the design of exercise games. Their research resulted in 6 requirements that a exercise game must have to be able to motivate people to exercise by gaming:

-Integrate music

-Availability of good instructor

-Achievable short and long-term goals

-Hide players’ fitness level

-Avoid lack of peer support

-Actively assist players in forming groups

The writers also say that these are requirements to help address barriers to take part in exercise games and will not guarantee a fun and engaging game.

I think the requirements the writers stated can indeed be motivators to perform exercise games. But this is only applicable to people who somehow have a little motivation to exercise themselves. For these people this bridge can be their way to exercising, but for people who doesn’t have any motivation themselves it will not have any affect. The won’t take the effort to buy and play these games. I also think these games have more effect on children than on adults, because a child may not be aware of the fact that he/she is exercising while an adult probably is.

Reference:

Yim, J., Nicholas Graham, N., 2007, Using games to increase exercise motivation, FuturePlay, November 15-17, Toronto, Canada

The influence of social media on people’s physical activity behavior

Peer pressure is a well known phenomenon. Nowadays social media is everywhere and it is still on the rise. This results in more interaction between people all over the world. With all these interactions, people see how other people live, how they look like, how they behave,… Social media makes the world visible for everyone. The phrase: „Monkey sees, monkey does” says it all. People are tended to be influenced by other people.

In the paper that is referenced at the bottom a study was applied to investigate the impact of online social networks as means to motivate people to become more physically active. The result of the study was that people who participated in an online community had a much higher physical activity level. The number of contacts or friends people had in an online social network was not relevant to the level of activity. But the thing that was important, was the activity level of the friends. People who had friends with a high activity level, were more active than people who had friends with a low activity level. So according to this paper we can conclude that there is such thing as peer pressure in social media and people are influenced by others in the case of physical activity.

I think the results of the paper are realistic and that peer pressure is everywhere on social media. If you see your friends in great shape and they are very active, they might motivate you to also do some physical activities. Or at least, it might get you thinking about doing something yourself. It’s because you see what other people do or can achieve, you start thinking that maybe you can do it yourself. This influence, if it is not extreme, is a good way to keep being motivated to achieve some goals.

Reference:

Groenewegen, M., Stoyanov, D., Deichmann, D., van Halteren, A., 2012, Connecting with Active People Matters: The Influence of an Online Community on Physical Activity Behavior, Social Informatics, Vol.7710, p. 96-109

Factors that make a smartphone a useful tool in a healthy lifestyle.

Behavior Change Infographic

We found an interesting infographic about how a smartphone can change your behavior to improve your health.

Infographic can be found here.

It clearly states that smartphone apps can help us in various ways. Mainly because of its mobile character, but also because it is fully customizable and can log your status in real time.

So according to the paper this infographic is based on (“Designing an Effective Behavior-Change Platform”), an app can help you improve and keep track of your health. A good app in this area can maintain your attention, which motivates you and reminds you to keep a healthy lifestyle. A part of this motivation comes from a progress overview that is embedded in most apps.

There are a lot of apps that pursue that goal. There are apps for running, counting steps, counting your food calories, track your sleep pattern, …

After testing a few of these ourselves, we are convinced that this has a big influence on our motivation and our choices during the day. We are more likely to: take stairs in stead of an elevator, go for a run more often, pay attention to what we eat, etc…

What do you think about this?