Can Your Mobile Phone Help You Get Fit?

Ted Vickey (on right) with John Breslin and researchers from NUI Galway.

Can your mobile phone help you get fit? A researcher at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway) and former White House fitness expert will pose this question at the 5th Annual Medicine 2.0 Congress which opens in Harvard Medical School, Boston, tomorrow.

Ted Vickey is a PhD researcher at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) and the Discipline of Electrical & Electronic Engineering at NUI Galway. His company FitWell won the White House Athletic Center contract in 1995. At Medicine 2.0, Ted’s presentation to delegates will show that “understanding one’s social network may be one key to better health”.

“Rather than surfing in the ocean, we are surfing the web. Rather than an outdoor game of tennis under the sun, we are inside our homes playing online virtual tennis on our Wii. People drive their cars to the gym and then take the escalator to the front door rather than walking and taking the stairs,” explains Vickey. “But what if technology could be the solution to our problem? What if our mobile phones could track our every step, provide healthy tips during the day, even persuade or motivate us when we need it most? This dream is now a reality all across the globe and it is called Mobile Health.”

There are an estimated 13,000 health-related apps in the iTunes app store: everything from monitoring blood pressure to tweeting body weight to tracking sleep cycles. A subset of these are fitness-related apps (MapMyFitness, Nike+, etc.) for monitoring and reporting on a person’s exercise characteristics. One way to share some of this exercise activity data is through microblogging services such as Twitter.

Various studies have indicated that “lack of motivation” is a key factor in why a person does not exercise. With social sharing of exercise activities using mobile fitness apps becoming more common, understanding and leveraging one’s social network may be one key to better health through exercise. However, the effectiveness of online sharing via social networks of one’s physical activity has yet to be fully understood. More research and best practices are therefore needed to show how advanced social web technologies may effectively address the lack of motivation excuse, and thus increase exercise adherence/general health.

As part of his PhD research, Vickey and his colleagues at NUI Galway have collected over 4.5 million tweets sent via mobile fitness applications from around the world. These were then categorised into different classifications, in an attempt to understand the correlations between online social networking and effective exercise motivation and adherence. For each person who shared a workout online, the researchers looked at their social network structure and their online influence, while determining a fitness classification, exercise intensity, exercise duration and motivation for that person.

“Mobile fitness apps not only allow for the sharing of information between user and healthcare providers, but also with a user’s friends. These self-monitoring units will help change the face of healthcare around the globe”, said Vickey.

Vickey’s paper, ‘Estimating the Long Term Effectiveness of Mobile Fitness Apps and Exercise Motivation’, has been shortlisted for the iMedicalApps Medicine 2.0 mHealth Research Award. His research at NUI Galway is funded by the Irish Research Council in conjunction with the American Council on Exercise (ACE Fitness), the largest non-profit fitness certification organisation in the world with over 50,000 professionals, and by Science Foundation Ireland. Vickey also serves on the Board of Directors of ACE Fitness.

Established in 2003 by NUI Galway and Science Foundation Ireland, DERI has now grown to become the world’s largest semantic web research institute. It engages with companies, from startups through to multinationals, to develop new web solutions. The Discipline of Electrical & Electronic Engineering at NUI Galway also offers a degree programme in Sports and Exercise Engineering, focusing on the convergence between electronic systems and exercise.

Ted Vickey And Getting The Most Out Of LinkedIn

Ted Vickey with John Breslin, organiser of BlogTalk 2010.

In the final session of BlogTalk 2010, Ted Vickey gave a talk in which he shared insights, tips and tricks for using LinkedIn.

Ted Vickey (NUI Galway) – Social media and LinkedIn for business from DERI, NUI Galway on Vimeo.

A key takeaway was when Ted suggested that using LinkedIn, or any other social platform for that matter, was like using a muscle. It has to be worked: you either use it or you lose it.

Of course, it has to be worked intelligently, which is where the value in the sharing of his expertise became apparent.

Ted believes LinkedIn to be a powerful business tool for connecting people from down the street to around the world. As part of his PhD studies at NUI Galway, he has begun a research project to better understand the perceived benefits of LinkedIn.

If you would like to help him further in this endeavour please take part in his survey which you can access by clicking on this link:

SMXQ: Ted Vickey

Ted Vickey hails from Erie, Pennsylvania and now resides in Galway, Ireland. He started his first company when he was 24 years old and his first client was The White House: official residence of the President of the United States of America. He is now working on a PhD in social networking and exercise adherence at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He will be speaking at BlogTalk 2010 on how to make best use of your profile and connections on Linkedin.

1. Could you tell us about your background (where you’re from, what you’ve done)?

I am an American entrepreneur living in Galway, Ireland. I studied Exercise and Sports Science at Penn State. I then had a 17-year stint living in the Washington, DC area.

Two years ago, I decided to live my bucket list. One item on that list was to live in Ireland and another was to get a Master’s degree. I finished my Master’s in International Business from the University of Limerick earlier this year, with my thesis on how the Irish entrepreneur uses social networking to create, manage and grow their business.

2. What was your route into social media?

I’ve always been known as the guy that knows everyone that gets things done. It was one of the things I learned at the White House. You can’t do it alone, you need help along the way. As an entrepreneur, I learned early that it isn’t always what you know, but rather who you know. Social media is a key resource for me in many aspects of my life – from my education to playing golf around the world. From growing my businesses to researching my Irish/German/Polish/Italian family history.

3. Tell us a little bit (if you can) about what you’re interested in or working on right now.

I am very excited about my PhD looking at how we can use social networking and social media to increase exercise adherence. We’ve all heard the same message for years, but inactivity continues to be a challenge for many and the global obesity rate is expanding. This current generation has grown up in a digital world, thus we need a digital solution to live longer and healthier lifestyles.

4. What social media services do you use regularly and why?

I am an evangelist for Linkedin, a big fan of <a href="Twitter, a frequent mayor on FourSquare, and an active user of YouTube and different blogs.

I have a plan for my LinkedIn network: if you want to achieve your goals, your network can’t be accidental. You need to be conscious and purposeful about whom you’re devoting your time to and why. LinkedIn will help you build stronger, more genuine relationships by providing you with information about the people that matter most. When someone makes a connection with me, I often ask how I can best help them.

For my personal use, I use Facebook to stay in contact with friends and family from all over the world. The jury is still out for me on Facebook and business uses. While there is a huge pool of potential customers, I haven’t yet seen a stable business model with Facebook.

5. If you could only keep one service or tool, what would it be, and why have you chosen it?

Hands down, no questions asked: Linkedin. If you can learn the effective ways to use LinkedIn as a business tool, you can find your dream job, grow your own business, increase your personal brand, and even win a political election. Through my LinkedIn network, I have sold product, hired experts, found golfing partners, researched graduate schools, hired employees, helped others and made a difference to those around me.

6. Including your own area of expertise, what developments in social media do you think are particularly important?

Social media is all about relationships. The need for building social connections hasn’t changed over the years, but the tools that we use to participate, share, create and network have.

7. What can you do now that you couldn’t do before the arrival of social media?

Social media is a digital bridge that can allows real-time interaction between friends from down the street to halfway around the world. It is a mutual desire to build a connection where ten years ago a connection could not have existed. Physical distance is no longer a challenge for personal and business growth. A small one-person company on the west coast of Ireland can now compete on a level playing field with a large company in downtown New York city.

8. What issues, either technical or social, do you see with social media?

The biggest issue I see with social media is that people take the “social” out of the equation. Would you rather have a core group of followers who care about you and your product and tell their friends about you, or a large number of followers who know nothing about you with no reason to follow you?

9. What one piece of advice would you give to someone entering the social media world?

Social media isn’t hard, you just need a good plan. Take time to create a plan.

10. How do you see social media helping and improving things for us in the future?

Social media IS the future. With so much noise online, you need to be innovative to stand out.

Ted can be found on Twitter as @tedvickey and on Linkedin here.