Improving Health and Fitness by Instructing Consumers through Data

With the explosion of wearable technology to monitor almost every aspect of ourselves (heart rate, breathing rate, calories burned) and our daily activities (steps taken, stairs climbed, distance traveled, minutes / hours slept), we now have a wealth of health, fitness, and medical information that could potentially revamp how we live our lives and how we care for ourselves.  As instructional designers (IDers) in the health and fitness field, this is a great opportunity for us to help consumers and healthcare professionals educate themselves and their clients / patients about health-related issues.  However, the challenge now lies in figuring out how to collect these data and present them in ways that are easily understood and meaningful to consumers and healthcare professionals.  The ultimate goals are to empower consumers to take control of their health and to help healthcare professionals provide the best individualized care as possible.


Accomplishing these goals will require IDers to look at the data critically and understand what is important to their targeted audiences.  Since wearable technologies can create huge amounts of data, IDers will need to work with data scientists and other data mining professionals to “weed out” the relevant data and present it in a way that is meaningful to consumers.  For example, data created by heart rate monitors and activity trackers could inform consumers about their current habits, and through personalized coaches / instructors / trainers, educate and coach them in making changes to improve their lifestyles.  Reports in the form of charts need to be viewed with a critical eye.  Are consumers provided with the ability to learn from the data?  Are the reports easy to interpret?  What sort of interventions can be created from the data?

My husband uses a sleep monitor called Beddit.  Every evening before he goes to bed, he syncs it with his smartphone.  Throughout the night, it tracks various aspects of his sleep – heart rate, snoring, time out of bed, and overall sleep.  When he wakes up, he stops the tracker and a report is generated.  The report offers him an easy-to-view snapshot of the previous night’s sleep.  Additionally, based on what it learns about his sleeping habits, it offers him education on how he can improve his sleep.  For example, if it detects that he is not falling asleep right away (through heart rate data), it offers him suggestions, such as not using his smartphone before bed, and presents him with more information on how he can facilitate falling asleep faster.


With healthcare becoming front and center in today’s society, educating and instructing consumers on how to improve their health and lifestyles are important.  Though it may not seem so, wearable technologies and the data they produce will provide IDers with ample opportunities to impact the way people learn about not only healthcare in general, but about individualized instruction focused on improving health and lifestyles through the data collected by these technologies.  IDers will be called on to create the materials that interface with these data and provide appropriate learning opportunities for these consumers to be educated about the health-based decisions they make.  Charts, graphs, and other information-communicating visuals will need to be designed and presented in ways that easily coach and educate consumers about what they need to know about themselves and how to make changes as appropriate based on what they learned and what the data tells them.  Healthcare professionals can use this information to help them monitor their clients’ / patients’ current health status and advise and/or intervene as necessary.



  1. Since getting into cycling a few years ago I have become a data junkie. I have a Garmin bike computer that tracks my distance, elevation, heart rate, speed, averages, etc. I also have a power meter on order so soon will be able to track that as well. I don’t have any fancy software to analyze all this data, but I monitor it to get a sense of how I’m improving (or not). I know some PE teachers have played around with this kind of data as well with students to encourage them to be more aware of their bodies and fitness level.

    I haven’t spent much time exploring some of the software out there, but what I have looked at hasn’t been very user friendly. While there isn’t much an ID can do about the lack of good software (unless they know how to code), I think there are untapped opportunities here. Too much of the “educational” software seems to be developed by non-educators and while I’m sure much of the fitness software is developed by people with a health or fitness background they likely still lack the ID background that could really help. I don’t really know, but I suspect this isn’t an area where IDs are getting involved but I think there it would be beneficial.

    If you are interested, here is my ride this Sunday with metrics –

  2. So true… I’m sure a lot of health and fitness professionals or people working in these fields probably don’t have an ID background — if they do, it’s probably a rare combination. I think many of the big companies (e.g., Nike and Fitbit) are hiring out this type of work. What good is this kind of data if we (the layperson) can’t easily read, interpret, and apply it?

    Sounds like you are a serious cyclist, Dr. Hutchinson… you gotta be if you are putting in 10k+ miles per year. 🙂 Thanks for sharing the data for one of your rides with us. I am always interested in what people use to track their workouts. My husband road cycles as well and he also has his sights on a power meter. Have you heard of Strava? If not, check it out: It may be fun for you if you like a little friendly competition with your friends. 😉

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