As spring beckons, and Melburnians start shedding their winter layers, many have new fitness goals in sight. But what if you were told that the biggest supporter of your springtime fitness might be a machine?
The answer, as it turns out, lies in the era of artificial intelligence (AI). A groundbreaking study at the University of South Australia (UniSA) indicates that chatbots might be the new go-to lifestyle coach for many. And if you’re looking to boost your daily steps, munch on some more greens or enjoy better sleep, a friendly chatbot might be your answer.
Published in Nature Digital Medicine, the study is the first of its kind and discovered some truly astounding figures. Specifically, individuals interacting with these AI chatbots reported:
- An impressive increase of 735 steps daily.
- A healthier choice of an additional serving of fruits and veggies every day.
- An added 45 minutes of sleep nightly.
Why is this significant? Because sedentary lifestyles, poor diets, and inadequate sleep are among the top modifiable reasons behind depression, anxiety, and a slew of chronic ailments like type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, obesity, and even cancers. In essence, these lifestyle factors could be linked to increased mortality.
UniSA’s lead researcher, Dr. Ben Singh, sheds light on the evolving perspective of chatbots, “When we picture chatbots, it’s often about fetching the day’s headlines or booking a ride. But now, their technological prowess has surged to the extent that differentiating between a machine and human conversation becomes challenging.”
This advanced capability of chatbots is revolutionising the healthcare sector by promoting proactive interventions, leading to improved wellbeing and a healthier lifestyle. A significant revelation from the study was the success of text-based chatbots over voice-operated ones, implying that texting might currently be the more effective medium for health-related interventions.
Tackling the age-old myth that only millennials or Gen Z can reap the advantages of technology, the study discovered chatbots’ efficacy across varying age demographics.
But before we bid adieu to our human health coaches and fully embrace our robotic buddies, a note of caution comes from UniSA’s Professor Carol Maher. While celebrating the innovative approach of chatbots to address lifestyle-related health matters, she suggests a blend of AI and human coaching. “While chatbots can provide round-the-clock, personalised advice, the field is still emerging, and there’s potential for them to deliver unsuitable recommendations. Therefore, combining the strengths of both human and AI could be our best shot,” says Prof. Maher.
In the age where we’re engrossed in gadgets and screens, it’s somewhat poetic that technology might hold the key to our physical wellbeing. If this study’s revelations are anything to go by, then perhaps this spring, our path to fitness might just be a chat away.
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