Getting “techy”! 3 tech-based strategies and their potential health benefits

The Bottom Line

  • Technology is heavily integrated into most facets of our everyday lives.
  • Gamified smartphone applications, wearable activity trackers, and virtual reality therapy are three tech-based strategies that may hold benefits related to physical activity or post-stroke rehabilitation.
  • Interested in getting down with the “tech”? First, speak with your healthcare team about whether these strategies are appropriate for you and how to use them safely.  

Examine your daily routine. Perhaps you wake up to the sound of your phone alarm, brush your teeth with an electric toothbrush, turn on the TV to catch up on your favourite show, ask Alexa a question, put a load of laundry into the washing machine, or use a computer to pay your bills online. No matter how big or small or easy or complex a task may be, there is often a bevy of technologies that we can rely on to help us complete it.

The degree to which technology has embedded itself into our lives is becoming increasingly apparent, and the health space is no exception. Here are a few tech-based strategies that may offer benefits (1-3). Click on the links below to learn more. 

1. Gamified smartphone applications

Games incorporate interesting features such as point collection, emphasizing rankings through leaderboards, confronting users with challenges, social networking, and providing rewards. Preliminary research shows that smartphone applications (aka apps) that utilize game-like features may increase physical activity levels, namely step count and walking. More research is needed to confirm these benefits and highlight the most effective game-like features to include within apps (1).

2. Wearable activity trackers

Physical activity pops up again, but this time the conversation is specifically related to people living with rheumatic and/or musculoskeletal diseases. Research shows that in this population, wearable activity trackers may boost the number of daily steps taken and the amount of time spent participating in moderate to vigorous activity. More research is needed on the long-term effects of this strategy and what additional methods to best pair it with (2).  

3. Virtual reality therapy

Virtual reality refers to the use of computer technology to induce the feeling of being in an artificial or augmented environment (1;4). Research shows that in people who have had a stroke, virtual reality therapy may produce small improvements in overall arm function, motor impairment level, and activities of daily living. What is more, immersive therapy may be best and those with moderate to severe arm weakness may see the most benefit (3).

Before you download a gamified app, purchase a wearable activity tracker, or put on a virtual reality headset, discuss these strategies with your healthcare team. Ask whether they are appropriate for you, given the health conditions you may live with and your health status, as well as how to utilize these strategies safely.

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Author Details


  1. Yang Y, Hu H, Koenigstorfer J. Effects of gamified smartphone applications on physical activity: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Prev Med. 2022; 62(4):602-613. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2021.10.005.
  2. Davergne T, Pallot A, Dechartres A, et al. Use of wearable activity trackers to improve physical activity behavior in patients with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Arthritis Care Res. 2019; 71:758-767. doi: 10.1002/acr.23752. 
  3. Jin M, Pei J, Bai Z, et al. Effects of virtual reality in improving upper extremity function after stroke: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Clin Rehabil. 2022; 36(5):573-596. doi: 10.1177/02692155211066534.
  4. Government of Canada. Stroke in Canada: Highlights from the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System. [Internet] 2019. [cited March 2022]. Available from

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Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of new and old blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with changing public health recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website.