Navigating the Coronavirus Era

Navigating the Coronavirus Era

I’ll have to be honest. When I first heard about the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Wuhan in January, I didn’t think it would escalate and result in countries around the world scrambling for a way to mitigate the spread. Being “far away” from the epicenter made me feel disconnected and a part of me felt hopeful that COVID-19 could be contained before getting out of hand. After all, we’ve made it through SARS back in 2003 and MERS in 2012, both of which had higher fatality rates. But things are different from back then. We’re dealing with a different virus and in this day and age, “far away” isn’t really far away. As much as we benefit from globalization, we’re also feeling its full effect through COVID-19’s rapid spread, the deep interdependence between major economies, and how vulnerable we all are to unexpected shocks.

Right now, what we’re living through feels like something out of a movie, but at least we are all in it together.

Across the country, major cities including San Francisco, New York City and Seattle have issued stay-at-home orders to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the virus. Schools and all non-essential businesses have been asked to close. Major events, such as SXSW, have been cancelled, and almost everyone I know is working from home.

San Francisco, where I currently live, was the first to order a shelter-in-place almost 2 weeks ago. What this means is I’m barred from gathering outside, but I can leave the house for “essential activities”, such as grocery shopping and going to the doctor. Most restaurants in my neighborhood have closed their doors, but a few have kept their delivery and takeout services up and running. People can also walk and exercise outside in public spaces, as long as they stay 6 feet away from others.

These measures are imperative for the health and safety of our nation, although devastating for our economy. This week’s uptick after the signing of a historic $2T stimulus package does not make up for the fact that the stock market has wiped out nearly 3 years of gains. Small businesses, the airline and hospitality industries are all suffering major losses and that extends downstream to the now 3 million+ workers whose jobs have been cut. My roommate, a marketing manager at a local restaurant chain, recently received an email regarding employment termination if the doors do not reopen by April 7th.

So yes, COVID-19 is very real and it can get personal. Even if it hasn’t turned your world upside down just yet, it is leaving people without an income and ability to provide for themselves and their families.

So please, let’s all do our part by following the social distancing guidelines, staying at home, and limiting the time outside to truly essential activities. With COVID-19’s incubation being anywhere from 2 to 14 days, we can be asymptomatic for a while and spread the virus to others without knowing. This community spread is what puts our healthcare system at risk. There are simply not enough beds, ICUs, ventilators for everyone and having to choose between which sick patient should receive care, is the last thing we want to do.

For those in the less-vulnerable category who underestimate the virus and call it “just another flu” (yes, I’m looking at you springbreakers), now’s the time to get serious. Staying at home is a small sacrifice compared to what our seniors and elderly have gone through (e.g., serving our country during World War II) or what our medical workers are doing each day to save lives. I know we’re all coping and adjusting to life under quarantine, but.. hey, we’re all in this together!

How are all of you doing during this time?

I’ll be checking in every now and then to post updates from SF, but until then, please stay safe and healthy!

How AI can help you get into the best shape of your life!

How AI can help you get into the best shape of your life!

I have less than a month before my trips to London, Hawaii and China! With that in mind, I’ve been searching for the right diet and workout plan. I don’t have a personal trainer, but thought I couldn’t go wrong with the 2-pound rule from this LiveStrong article. To lose 2 pounds a week, I would cut out 1000 calories per day 1. Assuming I stick to a 1200-calorie diet (which has been a challenge because I LOVE FOOD) and normally burn 2000 calories per day without doing much, all I’d need to do is burn an additional 200 calories each day through exercise. Seems simple enough, but it’s been 2 weeks of on-and-off barre, yoga, spinning and 30-min treadmill sessions. And I still weigh the same! Of course, body weight is just one measure and doesn’t account for progress in the form of reduction in body-fat percentage and overall fitness level. However, what I’ve noticed is, I’ve had to take a couple of breaks. I didn’t work out much before this summer and experienced a lot of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The group classes I took had good instruction and helped me stay motivated, but they were not tailored for someone who needs to step it up gradually. I know I’m not alone in my desire for individualized workout plans. Research shows that depending on one’s fitness level, body composition and medical restraints, there are specific routines that would be more effective in reaching his or her goals. Nevertheless, the cost of a personal trainer is still very high. Hence, that’s why an AI-driven solution that provides customized workout plans is useful for anyone interested in becoming fit.

The Little Big Idea:

Smart Scale and integrated web/mobile application that: (a) tracks users’ progress against their health and fitness goals and (b) leverages their workout history and research from physiotherapists and sports scientists to curate exercise routines that are personalized and highly effective. It does this through an algorithm that predicts, day by day, the type, intensity and duration of physical activity that would help users reach their desired outcome. These predictions will be based on both users’ live performance metrics (e.g. weekly BMI & weight loss, gains in flexibility, muscular endurance, etc.) and insights generated from crowdsourced data collected through the app. Essentially, the more people who train with the app, the more it actively learns from users’ experience, what works and what doesn’t. The application should do the following:

  • Perform an initial physical assessment on users and recommending a starting point. New users are asked to fill out a questionnaire about their medical history, diet, hobbies, barriers to exercise and goals 2. In addition, a series of tests that measure endurance, strength, flexibility and speed will be conducted to assess the user’s fitness level 4. So, whether you’re ready to do squats with 125 pounds or something more low-impact, like a 20-min elliptical interval workout, the app will figure it out!
  • Provide workout videos that you can try out either at home or at the gym. This will be dependent upon your preferences and information from the initial assessment.
  • Introduce additional variety and challenge to help users reinforce strengths, work on deficiencies and avoid injury 3.
  • Adjust workouts to take into account schedule changes as you go along.
  • Correct a user’s positioning. For staple workout exercises, such as squats and planks, the app will provide live feedback to ensure that your form is correct. Through the camera, it compares where your joints, arms and legs are, along with the angles they create, to the “perfect” form 5.

Are there similar ideas out there for you to check out?

  • Freeletics is a fitness app that assigns a personal training plan to each user. It recently integrated AI into its Bodyweight Coach feature, which now provides interval workouts that tackle specific areas of the body more effectively 6, 7, 8.
  • Sworkit guides its users of all levels – from beginner to advanced – through video workouts that can be done at home in as little as 5-15 minutes. The user can customize these workouts to focus on specific areas of the body, workout type, difficulty, etc. In addition, a real, personal trainer is also available to answer questions and help you choose the right workout 9.
  • Perfect Squat Challenge (by Kaia Health) uses AI-powered motion tracking and correction technology to help users perfect their squat. It does this by gauging the relative positions of limbs and joints and the angles between them, comparing them with what physiotherapists would describe as the “ideal” squat. While the technology is very impressive, the app is limited to squats, but has the potential to help users attune to more exercises 10.

So what do you guys think? Any recommendations and suggestions for a workout plan are also welcome!