Leveraging health data to build personal resilience and sustainable high performance

Health monitoring can help prevent or monitor illness. It can also be used at the other end of the spectrum to gauge high performance. Energy is the currency of high performance. The best performers develop the skill of aligning maximum energy with the highest return task they undertake. In cerebral industries, such as financial services, many employers still believe they are employing people just for their brains.

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However, brains and body are not isolated components – they are part of the same integrated ecosystems. Workers do not restore to factory settings when they walk into the office. We know that the brain responds very effectively to exercise. Exercise allows individuals to think faster, focus longer and remember more. It is fertilizer for 100 billion neurons in the brain. Some hedge funds are even installing treadmills under employees' desks.

It is a simple message, but not one that is easy to get across to workers, faced on the one hand by looming deadlines, and on the other a desire to chill out after they have met those deadlines. People need to be empowered to make better health decisions, improve their performance and improve their health outcomes.

The first stage of this journey is to raise awareness. This begins with trust. The message of the benefits of exercise needs to be broadcast above the noise of data that bombards us from all sides. The basis of trust needs to be good, applicable measurement. It has been possible to measure physical output of particular variables for many years; but not provide a holistic daily overview of physical performance until recently.

This information can be presented in dashboard format, where it is possible for employee to see the three components that contribute to high performance: stress, which triggers adrenaline and pushes performance; physical exercise; and recovery, including sleep. Each of these factors is as important as the other – without a balance, the employee will not be able to perform to potential over the medium to longer term. Human beings are not linear. We evolved to oscillate between periods of energy expenditure and renewal. Sometimes it is necessary to intervene to remind employees of this fact and protect them from themselves.

Behaviour change is tough. Public health campaigns have been in place for decades with only moderate success records. Tech and health data offers both effective feedback loops in real time, as well as scalability and accessibility. Data can be the trigger to actionable insights.The most significant challenge is structuring the data in a way that can be easily digested and understood. Too much unstructured data only causes confusion. In a world of big data, small data is actually important to the end user. The Holy Grail is to move upstream from reactive to preventative to ultimately predictive health data. We want employees to become the experts in their own health and their own performance.

Summary of Dan Zelezinski's presentation at the Centre's Health monitoring event in November 2016. Dan is Founder and Managing Director of Peak Health. Summary by Simon Woodward.