Despite our best intentions, good habits are hard to keep. Meal prep falls apart, morning workouts get postponed due to bad weather, and early bedtimes get wiped out by Netflix marathons. Smart home tech is trying to help us get our sh*t together: These tiny AI assistants can remind us to do things, and they’re harder to ignore than those constant alerts on your smartphone. But you don’t have to take our word for it — we checked in with health and wellness pros about how they use their smart homes.
What Counts As Smart Home Tech?
When we say smart home tech, we mean gadgets that make your home “smart.” Devices like your iPad or Apple Watch don’t count because they’re just as smart when you take them outside the house. But Amazon devices like Echo & Alexa and the Google Home range would definitely fit the bill. These are called smart home “hubs” because they can control other smart stuff you can install in your house — like lights, TVs and streaming devices, security cameras, and thermostats.
If you haven’t seen the ads, here’s what you need to know: A smart home hub connects to your WiFi network. (So do any of the extras you want them to “talk” to.) When you set up your hub, you teach it to understand your voice so it can respond to your questions and commands. The result? A mostly hands-free way to do stuff like find recipes, update your grocery list, or even consult a virtual personal stylist.
Since most of us have a smartphone habit we’d like to kick — or even technology-related injuries to work on — it’s pretty huge that these devices allow us to go screen-free without sacrificing the more helpful aspects of staying connected.
How to Use Smart Home Tech for Healthy Living
1. Improve your sleep. Jeff Patton is a sleep and smart home expert with GE (or, more officially, GM of Connected Home Product Management for GE Lighting). He explains that smart lighting, like C-Sleep bulbs and the C by GE Sol, might be a big deal for people who have trouble getting up in the morning. “One of the key factors in healthy sleep habits is one many people don’t think that much about: light,” explains Patton. “What’s cool about smart home technology is we now have lighting designed to help reinforce the body’s natural rhythm to prepare the body to sleep and awaken more efficiently.” That means warm light in the evening, which Patton says may help increase melatonin, and a more blue-toned light in the morning, which can help you stay focused. Besides controlling smart lights, your home hub can help you get better sleep by eliminating any need for screen time before bed. You can use it to set an alarm, start a white noise playlist, or take you through a guided meditation session.
2. Blast those tunes. Mary Weidner, co-founder of the meal planning and training app Strongr Fastr, has one of the best home gym hacks we’ve heard all year. When she’s ready to train, she says, “Okay, Google: It’s time to work out.” Then, she explains, “[My Google Home] starts playing my workout playlist on Spotify and sets the volume to 70 percent.” That’s not an automatic feature, FYI — Weidner set it up using the device’s shortcut commands. But since most of us agree that music is the key to a great workout, this hack is a must-try for anyone who trains at home.
3. Master meal prep. When meal prep falls apart, it’s waaaay too easy to fall back on our fave food delivery services. And there’s nothing wrong with that — but sometimes, all you want is a damn vegetable. “I also use the Google Assistant to add things to my grocery list,” shares Weidner. Shopping list management is a common feature across the home hubs on the market. In fact, in some regions, you can even place a grocery order with your device. It’s called voice shopping, and we’re equal parts excited about it and concerned for our wallets. Weidner also uses her hub to keep track of those orphan vegetables that usually get lost in the depths of the crisper until way past the expiration date. For example: “Okay, Google: Remind me Friday afternoon to use the zucchini for dinner.”
4. Avoid food poisoning. “I also constantly am asking Google what temperature meat should reach when cooking. I never can remember that,” concedes Weidner (#relatable). Eventually, though, Weidner wants to graduate to a smart grill. “You just insert the temperature probe into the meat, and your phone notifies you when you should remove it from the grill.”
5. Get centered. Heidi Jones is a Fortë coach and private trainer based in NYC. Her job sometimes makes it hard to find time to herself. “I run all over the city to teach classes and meet clients at all times of the morning and evening,” she shares. In such a high-intensity work environment, Jones craves moments of virtual stillness. “I know it may sound silly to use Alexa to help me breathe deep, but if I don’t actually carve out this time, I won’t do it on my own,” she admits. “I simply say, ‘Alexa, start deep breathing,’ and she takes me through three minutes of guided breathing.” There are plenty of guided meditation options available to Google and Amazon smart home users, from relaxing background tracks to Headspace sessions.
6. Squeeze in a workout. “Something surprising to many people is the fact that there are days when it’s tough for me to get in my own workout,” says Jones. “Enter Alexa.” Jones uses the Amazon hub’s seven-minute workout — a full-body program including planks, squats, and step-ups. “I don’t have to think about it or program for myself,” she says. “And sometimes that [routine] is the only workout of the day.” If you’ve ever tried to hit the gym after a long day at the office, you know how tough it is to scrounge up the motivation to work out when you’re tired. But seven minutes? That’s totally doable. As Jones puts it, “One thing I know for sure is that any movement is better than no movement at all.”
Are you obsessed with smart home tech? Tell us how you use it to support your health @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)
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