Exercise machines to shape our lives – Intelligent Life magazine

Below is an excerpt from an article I wrote for Intelligent Life magazine (an Economist group publication):

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The irony, in this brave new world of the Human Genome project and space tourism, is that more of us will die from `lifestyle` diseases than any other cause of death.It is by far the biggest killer in Europe. We are literally eating, smoking and drinking ourselves to an early grave. We have also stopped moving and our sedentary lifestyles now constitute a global health crisis. The World Health Organisation estimate that 2 million people die each year through physical inactivity.That represents half of New Zealand’s population, every year. Pick any country and at least 60% of the population will be inactive to a life-threatening extent. So how do you shape up? Are you getting your 30 minutes of exercise, five times weekly or are you one of the 3.9 billion people who prefer exercising the remote control?

Yes, it is a bleak picture so far, but it could just be that technology and a little will power may come to our rescue. However, it is clear that new exercise machines will have to become far more intelligent, intuitive and inspiring than the last generation. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, Americans spent just over $5 billion in 2004 on an array of exercise machines for their homes. This included $13 million on the low-tech, but functional, skipping/jump rope, through to a staggering $2.8 billion on treadmills. The omnipresent fitness video added $64 million to the total.However, unless properly integrated into our lives, much of this equipment becomes no more than an expensive and unloved home prop. Be honest, how much action has your home exercise equipment seen in the past three months?

For the next few minutes, I would like to take you on a journey to demonstrate how the next generation of `intelligent` equipment could become embedded in our everyday lives. Meet the Kaplinskis.Dan is 39 and a partner in a London based strategy consultancy. Sabrina is 37 and juggles between roles at a visual communications consultancy and ferrying Theo (12) and Grace (10) between school and an array of `sub-teen` activity clubs. Neither Dan nor Sabrina are in good shape. Dan leads a frenetic but sedentary lifestyle, interspersed with an occasional bout of tennis. He is overweight, getting heavier and suffers from lower back pain. Sabrina is more active, but tends to walk rather than any structured physical activity regime. Sabrina is near her ideal weight, but feels constantly lethargic. Theo and Grace are the most active family members, but are not at their `ideal` body weight as they spend far too long in front of the TV and have a typical high fat, high sugar `fast food ` diet. Six months ago, the Kaplinskis were encouraged to see if technology and a new activity regime could assist them to take control of their health and well-being. This is the story so far.

Read the the rest of the Intelligent Life article here.

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