Bridging the Gap
Technology expert Ted Vickey, MBS, believes health and fitness pros can enhance client accountability, motivation and insight by utilizing health technology and social media.
Ted Vickey, MBS, is president of FitWell LLC, an international fitness management and design company serving corporate America and the fitness and golf industries. Often referred to as “the most connected man in fitness,” Vickey spent 11 years as executive director of the White House Athletic Center, a post he held throughout the presidencies of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Through his consulting work, he has collaborated with the U.S. Department of Commerce, Fruit of the Loom, Osram Sylvania, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; for 6 years he also served as vice president of Comprehensive Health Services Inc. A lover of technology and social media, he is in the final stages of earning his doctorate in physical activity and social networking from the National University of Ireland, Galway.
ACE: The use of technology to further one’s fitness journey has become more commonplace over the past several years. What effect do you feel devices like activity trackers, etc., have had on people’s pursuit of health and fitness?
Ted Vickey: From my perspective, the use of technology during one’s fitness journey impacts three things: accountability, motivation and insight. Let’s take step tracking as an example. By tracking a measure like steps, a person can get additional insight into how active he or she really is during the day. You’d be surprised at the difference between the number of steps people think they take versus what they actually take. That insight inspires accountability, and it provides a realistic picture of what an individual needs to do to create smart goals for his or her level of physical activity.
The accountability comes in the form of reminders embedded into the technology; awareness of the technology; and family, friends, coworkers, personal trainers and health coaches who participate in the activity with that individual. As for motivation, while we know the government suggests 10,000 steps per day, for a person who is taking only 2,000 steps, that sort of increase may be too much too soon. Having smaller milestones for motivation can be important.
ACE: What role do you feel social media can play in the overall health of our nation? Why is it important for health and fitness professionals to connect on those platforms?
Ted Vickey: There are a few ways social media can play a role in the overall health of our nation. Providing education to the public and getting health messages out using a social network—be it Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest—allows conversations about health to occur on a regular basis. On a more individual level, social media can motivate a person to stay on his or her journey to health. I like to reference social media outlets as opportunities for “virtual high-fives.” No longer must people be in the same physical space to receive a high-five for a job well done; they can (and are) getting the encouragement they need from social media.
ACE: With all the benefits of social media and new technologies, there have certainly also been some drawbacks. What negative impact, if any, do you feel has come with our advances in those areas?
Ted Vickey: The use of social media and new technologies within the health and wellness space is very new, and from what I can see, it will continue to grow in acceptance, not only here, but around the world. That rapid adoption brings with it two challenges: privacy and security. I am a Fitbit® user. My collected Fitbit data is my data—not the company’s. I want to be able to control how the company uses it and with whom it’s shared. I also want a sense of security so I know my collected health data is as secure as possible. Recent surveys suggest that over 80% of Americans are willing to share their health data with employers for the common good, but think that sharing must be an individual choice.
ACE: What are some common mistakes you think health and fitness professionals make when it comes to social media?
Ted Vickey: The biggest mistake I see with regard to health and fitness professionals and social media is that many are fearful of using it. Our profession has been particularly cautious, with good reason. I’ve overcome my personal fear of social media by using different platforms for different purposes and audiences. I use LinkedIn to connect with and learn from other industry professionals. I use Twitter to share relevant health and fitness information with my social network. I use my Facebook business page to connect with my clients and build camaraderie. That strategy is included in my overall business plan, and it’s resulted in great success.
ACE: What role do you envision for technology when it comes to connecting health and fitness professionals with members of the healthcare team? What technologies currently exist to build that connection?
Ted Vickey: I think our industry is in the midst of a change, wanted by our clients. They expect to be able to use technology in health and fitness just like they do when seeking medical information, ordering food or getting driving directions. The healthcare industry is going through a similar adoption of technology in an effort to facilitate better care. That said, the healthcare industry has a few more challenges to overcome before it can truly embrace the power of consumer-facing health technologies. Larger conversations about these technologies need to take place within the healthcare industry, and I think we as members of the health and fitness industry have an important role to play in those conversations. I am confident that someday soon, health and fitness professionals will be an integral part of the overall healthcare team, with technology being an important piece in that connection.