In its broadest sense, biofeedback is an important and popular trend that can help you stay healthy and have a better quality of life. When I talk about biofeedback, I’m talking about using or being connected to electrical devices and sensors that help you to receive information (feedback) about your body (bio). That’s the simple reason why it’s called biofeedback.
Having information about your current state of the body can help you take action and achieve the health result you want more easily, for example reducing the pain and stress level or enhancing your physical performance. The greater the awareness you have of your physiological functions, the easier you can manipulate them and take the right actions. The actions you can take are most often closely connected to changes in your thoughts, emotions and behaviour. In other words, you apply data about your body processes to your personal development plan.
Most frequently, biofeedback is connected to measuring brainwaves, heart function, breathing, muscle activity and skin temperature using sensor modalities like EMG, EDG, EEG, PPG, ECG, REG, HEG, and so on. But since biofeedback is such a cool buzzword, I also use it for simpler body measurements with devices you can afford. With more and more smart and wearable devices on the market, you can measure, observe and take note of many different body functions at home without any professionals.
With more and more smart devices, sensors in your mobile phone and different applications, you can measure many variables of your body functions. They’re very good for measuring inputs (calories intake for example), your body function status (heart rate or weight, for example) and the outputs you get with changing your behaviour (brainwaves when meditating or body fat percentage when changing your diet, for example).
What’s not only a fact of life but also true for your health is that wrong assumptions are the mother of all fuckups. You don’t want to take actions that influence your health based on your assumptions, but rather actions based on actual data that is as accurate as possible. You can manage only what you measure. Thus your set of biofeedback devices should act as a kind of sixth sense that allows you to see or hear activity inside your body and take more appropriate action.
Here are the variables you can simply measure with smart devices and applications that are easily available to you on the market:
- Aerobic activities – walking, running, hiking etc.
- Anaerobic activities – reps, load etc. when weightlifting
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
- Body Fat Percentage
- Body Mass Index
- Calories intake
- Hearth rate
- Lean Body Mass
- Nutrition intake
- Skin temperature
- Sleep Analysis
By taking a relatively cheap test, you can also get feedback on your:
- Blood analysis
- Hormone levels
- Muscle tension
- Many others
Devices and applications
There are more and more devices and applications on the market that enable you to monitor different body functions. In the near future, we can expect even more devices, much more capable ones that will measure an even broader set of functions more accurately and in more detail. Of course wearable technologies and medical devices are also a big business opportunity.
Here are some devices and applications I use for biofeedback fitness:
- Endomondo – anaerobic activities
- Excel – nutrition intake
- Headspace – meditation
- Smart Scale (Fitbit Aria) – weights, body fat percentage
- Blood Sugar Device (Bayer Contour) – blood sugar (buy this one if you want to also measure ketones – GlucoMen LX PLUS)
- Fitness Super Watch – FitBit Surge or Apple Watch (planning to buy)
Online, you can find many lists and reviews of different devices and applications.
Challenges of biofeedback
There are of course some challenges when implementing biofeedback in your life. The first and biggest challenge is time, discipline and thus additional stress. It’s not easy to examine your day-to day life and status of the body’s processes. It’s important to take things step by step, from basic measurements to the more advanced ones. Automating as many things as possible also makes sense.
The second problem is the financial cost. You have to invest some money into an application, devices etc. They’re not that expensive, but you still have to spend some money. Again, going step by step and making sure you actually use the devices you buy is the best way to go. Otherwise you’re just wasting your resources.
Actions you can take
Based on the biofeedback, you can take different actions for your health, mood and energy levels. Most actions are connected to some sort of relaxation or behavioural changes. Thus biofeedback can’t do magic (yet) and cure you of different diseases, but it can definitely help you manage your body and energy levels better. You also get faster feedback if something is going into the wrong direction, for example your body fat percentage.
The most popular actions you can take based on biofeedback:
- Dietary changes
- Taking supplements
- Emotional accounting
- Exercise decrease or increase
- Changing sleep patterns
- Water intake
Biofeedback can help you the most with your fitness and energy levels, getting in shape, managing anxiety, stress and insomnia, headaches and other similar tensions. The final goal of all the effort is using all the data for personal development and behavioural changes to optimize your daily life, potential, how you feel and how much you can achieve.
In the future, I’ll show detailed examples of how I use different devices to gather feedback about my body functions.
Disclaimer: In this blog post, biofeedback is meant in a very broad meaning of the word, measuring basic health stuff with devices you can buy on the market. The blog post doesn’t give any advice for serious health issues. If you are experiencing a serious health issue, you should consult your doctor.