Active Minds: Physical Activity, Mental Health and Digital Technology


‘Active Minds’ is a workshop. It’s an opportunity
to bring academics and clinicians and people from industry and those with lived experiences
of mental health challenges together to talk about the role of technology and mental health
and movement. I do research on physical activity and technology
for encouraging people to walk more, you know, get more steps and so on and Maki does some
really interesting work on mental health and mental wellbeing and we were just talking
about the connections between these areas and saying there’s interesting overlaps and
interesting unexplored areas. This two day workshop has been a very interesting
experience because there’s a range of people with different backgrounds so it’s a very
multidisciplinary environment and also people with a range of both different concerns and
common ground. So I work in the area of mental health but there’s a lot of overlap in terms
the concerns of designing systems to support people’s mental health and designing systems
for better physical health and also very often mental and physical health conditions are
interlinked. I’m from Microsoft Research and I have given
a talk about how you can design technology that can meaningfully assist a person and
extend their abilities in novel but sensible ways. It was nice to actually be able to link what
I do, what I’d like to do with actually movement, mental health, physical health and how we
can bring all that together and realising that there’s a whole field and a whole host
of researchers out there that we can collaborate with and that are willing to, and excited
about, doing the same. I come from a psychology background and I’m
interested in Human-computer interaction, which is what this workshop focusses on. I
gave a quick five minute talk about some of the research that I’ve been doing with autistic
children and technologies and I was on a panel where I discussed how technology can provide
opportunities to promote wellbeing in autistic people. I was here to talk about my 6 Minute Walk
app that I’ve developed and it’s basically an app that measures how far a person walks
in six minutes and it can be used as an indicator of fitness and health and it could be used
in a pre-surgery assessment with patients to predict post-surgery outcomes. I did a short presentation about my research
which is very much related to the theme of the workshop which is on how do we use physical
activity for stress management. It was very nice to see people who were interested in
the same area and are passionate about doing research in this area and understand the importance
of it. Some of the stuff interested me because I
do think the future lies in wellness It’s about keeping busy and doing things active.
I believe in this active, you know, ‘Get a Move On’ I think that’s what it’s about – keeping
busy. I’ve actually had a few ideas for collaboration
to hopefully benefit the students, which is essentially what I was coming here over the
two days to leave with. It was a really great opportunity for me to
really learn what’s going on in this particular field. GetAMoveOn have allowed us to be adventurous
with this workshop. I’ve really enjoyed when we’ve been out of our comfort zone, when we’ve
been off on tangents and so on and I think there’s been a lot to think about here that
perhaps isn’t ordinarily discussed with reference to physical activity and technology. Some amazing things happen when you create
an opportunity for people to get together that magic effect happens on the day when
people come.

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