Technology and physical activities collide: the good, the bad and the ugly

Laura Iverson, the assistant director of fitness, wellness, and recreation at Westminster College, and Brody Leven, who graduated from Westminster College in 2010, use smartwatches to track their daily progress and routines. The Garmin Fenix can track more than 10 activities and carries both GPS and communication capabilities. Photo by Andrew Nassetta.

Laura Iverson, the assistant director of fitness, wellness, and recreation at Westminster College, and Brody Leven, who graduated from Westminster College in 2010, use smartwatches to track their daily progress and routines. The Garmin Fenix can track more than 10 activities and carries both GPS and communication capabilities. Photo by Andrew Nassetta.

Innovations in software, hardware and application have led technology to root itself within natural things like the outdoors and physical activity, which has had both positive and negative effects on its users

Individuals in these fields use technology for a variety of purposes—to enhance their career, personal wellness or connection with others—but they say each use is full of some good, some bad and some ugly.

Leven's take on technology

Brody Leven, who graduated from Westminster College in 2010, is a professional skier and storyteller from northeastern Ohio.

Leven said it has never been easier to stay connected to the rest of the world and he frequently uses technology in his day-to-day activities.

"Technology allows me do my job better, because I can tell the stories of my days in the mountains better," he said.

Leven captures and shares his adventures with his audience through social media and sponsorships.

"A lot of what I am doing is trying to be transparent with my audience," Leven said. "The technology I carry and use allows that."

Leven carries a range of devices with him in the mountains, including an avalanche transceiver, his phone, a camera and multiple GPS devices. However, he said his phone and a multipurpose watch are the two things he relies on most.

"Imagery is a good thing," Leven said. "It's not mandated by [sponsors], but at this point it is very much expected. If I signed with a company and they saw me using a flip phone, they might think twice."

Brody Leven, who graduated from Westminster College in 2010, captures his adventures with camera equipment and uses social media outlets to share the content. Leven's Instagram captures an audience of nearly 50,000 followers and provides a platform for him to share his stories. Photo by Andrew Nassetta.

Brody Leven, who graduated from Westminster College in 2010, captures his adventures with camera equipment and uses social media outlets to share the content. Leven's Instagram captures an audience of nearly 50,000 followers and provides a platform for him to share his stories. Photo by Andrew Nassetta.

Leven said he uses imagery to maintain his brand, produce content and tell stories as a professional skier.

"There is a big critique about social media bringing people down," Leven said. "They see [someone] out there doing the raddest stuff and think, 'My life sucks.'"

Leven said social media now motivates him but said that wasn't always the case.

"I would not be using social media if it wasn't for my career," he said.

Leven said he went through college without any social media presence and only joined the masses a few years after he graduated. However, he said even without social media he would still be using technology as part of his career.

"If I wasn't on social platforms, I would still be using stat tracking and safety devices for personal benefit," he said.

Leven said that technology can supplement the brain in many ways and offers safety within the push of a few buttons. However, he said people need to remember what brought them to the outdoors and exercise in the first place.

Iverson learns to rest

Laura Iverson is the assistant director of fitness, wellness and recreation at Westminster College, where she has worked since 2007.

Iverson said she was born with a passion for all things fitness and wellness, which led her to earn a bachelor and master's degree in sports science from the University of Idaho.

"I think some people are actively against technology use for physical activity because it takes away from the awareness of self," Iverson said. "People are mindless and not aware of their bodies."

Iverson, however, said it makes no difference to her what it takes to motivate someone to exercise and get outside.

"My watch helps me listen to my body," she said. "It has features that help me tailor my workout and listen to body when it needs rest and when I can push it."

Technology motivates people to get in tune with their body and into physical activities but can also result in negative side effects, Iverson said.

"On one hand, social media is motivating—I can see how fast and far everyone is running," Iverson said. "On the other hand, it is horribly discouraging."

Iverson said people post on social media in different ways and said some people can become narcissistic with their content.

"Especially in women's fitness," Iverson said. "How do these people have so much time to take pictures of themselves in bikinis in the middle of the winter? That's not motivating or helpful."

Overall, Iverson said it's all about the content and intent—some people use fitness technology to present a good message and others don't.

Muse posts positivity

Andrew Muse, a Utah transplant from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, said he brands himself through his experiences of physical activities and adventure and shares them with his friends and followers.

Muse said social media aids his passion.

"Ever since I got on social media, I have been able to share visuals with my friends and family back East," he said. "They always want more."

Muse graduated from Castleton University with a bachelor's degree in journalism and moved to Salt Lake City to pursue journalism focused on the outdoor industry.

"When I graduated, I started to travel a lot and everyone wanted to see what I was doing and where," Muse said. "So I started blogging on Instagram about it"

Muse said he enjoys skiing, cliff-jumping, climbing and anything else that gets his blood pumping.

"I want to motivate my friends," he said, tucking his curly blonde hair behind his ear. "I share what I do with them and I want it to inspire them to live wholly."

Muse said social media can have negative effects and said some of his friends feel their lives will never be as good as his seems on social media.

"Making people feel bad about their lives is not what I aim for," he said. "I just want them to take control of their lives if they are not happy."

The way you blog and the language you use can affect the perceptions of your content, Muse said.

"At what point do I stop posting for myself and the experience and am I posting for other people?" he asked.

Technology as a whole is creating a push and pull between reality and the fabricated world, Muse said—and what pushed many into the outdoors and exercising in the first place can sometimes be lost in translation.