September 16, 2021

How to Improve Your Health with Technology

Show Notes

On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Cindy Bjorkquist, director of health and well-being programs for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Together, they discuss how technology can be beneficial to our health.

In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:

    • The well-being and fitness landscape’s shift into the virtual space.
    • Ways technology can improve our health.
    • Considerations when implementing technology into our lives.
    • What the future holds for virtual tech in the self-care space.

For more info on the Blue Cross Virtual Well-Being webinars, click here.

Also, check out Cindy’s webinar on using virtual reality for exercise and social connection.

Transcript

Chuck Gaidica:
This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast, episode 89. Coming up, we discuss how you can improve your health using technology.

Chuck Gaidica:
Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast, the podcast dedicated to navigating how we can all improve our health and well-being through small healthy habits we can start implementing right now. I’m your host, Chuck Gaidica, and every other week, we sit down with a certified expert to discuss topics that cover nutrition, fitness, and more. And today, it’s a lot more. On this episode, we are diving deeper into how technology is transforming the health and wellness landscape.

Chuck Gaidica:
With me today is the director of health and well-being programs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Cindy Bjorkquist. Good to have you back.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Hi, how are you?

Chuck Gaidica:
I’m doing well. How are you?

Cindy Bjorkquist:
I’m doing very well. Thank you very much. And this is such a fun topic.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, I know there’s going to be so much to this. I don’t want to date you, but you’ve been at health and wellness for over 35 years, working directly in healthcare for the past 20-something. You’ve been into everything from work site wellness to individuals, and now you’re going to be talking today about technology, and it sounds like you’re geeked about this.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
You’re so right, the industry has changed so much. I look back on 35 years ago, on what we were doing. The passion for what I have for this field just exponentially went off the charts a little bit when I started doing this virtual reality exercise and social connection and stuff like that. It’s really crazy stuff if you haven’t tried it yet.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, there’s so much that’s going on that it seems like it’s advancing right before our eyes. There’s this old saying that there’s nothing that’s more constant than change, but I think it applies to technology, it just keeps on happening. And in this season we’re still in, coming out of, everything from exercise bikes got kicked up a notch, meditation apps, self care. Seems like things are increasing tremendously and exponentially as we continue to evolve within that technology or maybe even virtual world.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Absolutely. The virtual reality market is expected to reach 34 billion by 2023, and the gaming revenue from the virtual reality, which we’re going to talk about a little bit today, how it relates to wellbeing and exercise, is expected to be over a billion dollars just in ’21, according to FinancesOnline. So it’s here, it’s solidly here. And for you and me, we’re maybe a little bit older than the millennials and we keep thinking, “Oh, they should be doing this.” They’re already doing it, Chuck.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
And when I submerged myself into this virtual reality world, because I’m fortunate to have a couple of boys, sons, adult men, who do all this already, so I got to experience all this. Probably the easiest way to start the conversation is to think about, when people hear virtual reality, they don’t really know what it is, but it’s the use of computer modeling and simulation to allow me to interact with this artificial three-dimensional world. It’s a visual, audio world that you get to step into.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
And the exciting part for me personally as an exercise physiologist, and I know you work out too, so you’re just going to love this if you get a chance to try it, is that it applies to well-being and fitness, two of the most widely things that they’re using today under virtual reality and exercise and social connection and how you can improve your overall well-being by doing some of this stuff. And the two things I’d like people to understand if you’ve never tried this, the two things are called high immersion and presence.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
High immersion is when I’m doing these virtual reality games or exercises, I get immersed into that digital environment. I am highly immersed into it. There’s this 360-degree view and audio once I put that headset on that my brain thinks I’m there. And it’s hard to explain, Chuck, until you’ve done it, but your brain thinks that you’re there. And the second thing is that, it’s called presence. The brain thinking that you’re there means that your brain thinks it’s real. So your subconscious tricks you into thinking this digital world that you’re looking at and you’re listening to when you’re submerged into is your physical world and your brain can’t handle two worlds at one time, so you literally think you’re in that world.

Chuck Gaidica:
And it’s not all a trick though, because we were talking off mic a few minutes ago, if you’re going to do boxing in a virtual reality world, you’re still going to break a sweat because you’re boxing somebody. So it’s not like you’re faking it, you really are boxing.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Absolutely. So let’s talk about the faking it part. The first thing that I would recommend that anybody would go through and try virtual reality is that they do it like as an intro exercise. My son did this to me. He put me in his basement, huge basement, cement floor. I put the headset on, I put the controllers in my hand, and he had me sit… No, I was standing, and go in an elevator. So I put the headset on, I feel like I’m going up and down. So that’s your brain thinking that you’re doing it. And Stanford University actually did a study on this, and they said it takes a couple of minutes for your brain to code that you’re in this digital world.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
So he had me go up and down this elevator. So I’m going up the elevator, I’m going down. Then he opened the door of the elevator and he had me walk a plank. Now, envision yourself like at the top of the Empire State Building. You think you’re there, there’s a plank out in front of you, and I’m supposed to walk out on the plank. Drew, my son, says, “Walk out into the plank.” Chuck, I took the headset off and I looked at him and I’m like, “I can’t do it.” He said, “What are you talking about?”

Cindy Bjorkquist:
I could not make myself, because when you put your foot out on the plank, it creaked, and then you felt the wind. So it took me a little bit to walk the plank. So I finally convinced my brain to walk the plank on his cement floor. And then he said, “Now, jump off the plank.” My brain would not allow me to jump off the plank on the cement floor, just jumping right next to myself. So that’s what Stanford University is talking about, is the ability to apply this virtual reality to things like you and I have been doing for a very long time, which is exercising, using that technology, the headset and the apps to immerse ourselves into a workout environment, and you brought up boxing.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
So the next thing I did after walking the plank and jumping off the plane, which took me five or six minutes to convince my brain to do, is that I started boxing another person, another avatar person. I’m trained in boxing and martial arts, and so I was boxing a guy in his basement, totally thinking I was boxing another person using all the moves that I’ve been trained to do with martial arts and boxing. And I got winded, like you said, it was a workout for me. I played ping pong and went against an avatar and played ping pong. And yes, I did not win, that avatar beat me every single time.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
People use it for dancing and you mirror movements that people are dancing. I did an interval training one where this is an interval training where, imagine you’ve got a headset on and you’re standing there and you’ve got these controllers in your hand, your right controller is red on screen, your left controller’s black, and you see these boxes come flinging at you, and the boxes will have an arrow, which points up, down right and left. So as you’re watching these boxes come toward you, if it comes toward your head, you have to duck. So you’re doing a squat. If it comes towards you with an arrow, you have to swipe up or swipe left. So you’re moving the whole entire time.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
And what they’re finding is not only does it help with physical health because you’re squatting and moving and going from side to side, but there’s also studies that talk about what it’s doing to your brain with recall and with memory and stuff like that. So there’s all these universities that are doing studies that are looking at the physical outcomes like body composition, fitness level, muscular strength, two-thirds of the people that were in this one study, it was University of Minnesota, they showed positive results from VR workout. You just said it, you can use this stuff to get a really good workout.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
And the interesting thing about it too is that people who are doing the workout like me doing that workout, I reported a lower exertion rating than what I was actually doing, heart rate correlation because it’s fun. I want to hook you up and show you what it is, that’s just so much fun.

Chuck Gaidica:
No, I’m really excited because you mentioned like there could be some age related issue to adoption or being an early adopter of this. And I’ll admit that having five millennial kids, that that’s probably the truth, that that’s where it’s going to come from. But you said so many things in just a couple of minutes that my brain is just clicking away. I remember my son, Matt, who’s a PhD in neuroscience. He was teaching a class to Parkinson’s patients on boxing. And then I’ve talked to other people who are taking dance classes because of things from dementia to Parkinson’s and otherwise.

Chuck Gaidica:
So the notion of being able to employ this kind of technology for workouts for everybody sounds great, and then for specific groups that have needs where maybe they can’t get in a car and go anywhere by themselves, oh my gosh, the helpfulness and the wellness that could just come to people in a box seems astounding.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Yeah. I like how you said health and wellness too, because that’s what it really does as well, is there’s a bunch of applications out there that help people with mindfulness and meditation. I actually woke up the other day and used the Oculus headset. And I usually meditate in the morning, and I meditated with the Oculus headset in the mountains. So instead of in my house and doing a meditation, I went into this mountain. So think of me, because I’m a climber, I love being and being in mountains and stuff, a hiker. So I’m at the top of a mountain, I’m looking at birds, I’m feeling the breeze. I’m at my happy place, which is on the top of a mountain, and I’m meditating there in the morning.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
So mindfulness, meditation, we talked about memory, response time. There are so many things that people can do with this. I think beyond this whole fitness category, there’s another huge area that I’m so interested in, that my son has really opened my eyes to. Your son’s in neuroscience, imagine your son, my son came to me and said, “Do you want to go to a concert?” During COVID, “Do you want to go to a concert?” It was like last July or August or something. I said, “No, we’re not going to a concert.” He was like, “Well, we’re going to go to a concert with eight million people.”

Cindy Bjorkquist:
So he brought over his VR stuff and we actually went to a concert with eight million people from around the world. It was what they call social virtual reality. He was getting connected with people from all over the world and watching a concert with eight million people. And then we walked around as avatars and we got to meet people from all over the world, Czechoslovakia, Russia, there were some people from Michigan there. So when you walked up to the avatar and you’re listening to this music, you could go into a chat room and chat with that person if you knew their language, or if they talked English.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
But it’s a different way of getting people connected, which you and I know help with social connection, helps with our overall well-being. People intuitively have to be connected to other people. And so I get to go to a concert with eight million people and meet people and talk to them. He goes to movies on a Friday night in a theater, your avatar sitting in a theater and he will go to a movie with people from all over the world, five or six gamers that he’s really good friends with that he games with as well. And they’ll watch a movie together, chat, talk like they’re in the same room.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, and you’re talking about being outdoors. So I can see too, how maybe one of the benefits to this is that you’ve never thought of climbing rocks or you want to go forest bathing, we read studies about that all the time, but that this notion of coming in through the virtual reality door sparks your interest and now you’re on your way out to Utah. You know what I mean? I think there could be an interesting way to hook people on some new experience they’ve never participated in.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Yeah, I love that idea. You’re exposing people to other things that they would not otherwise be exposed to, and then they can go to choose to do it on their own if they want. And the one thing that I think is interesting when you talk to people who are fully submerged into this virtual reality world, is that they talk about that it’s a lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle to them, similar to how you and I might have a lifestyle where we would go to dinner with people, or we would go for a jog with people or a bike ride with people. They choose to do this type of lifestyle, and that was an interesting point.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
One of the things that I’ve been really diving into because of my job and well-being and what we do is to look into self care. self care was such a hot topic last year because of COVID. We wanted people to make sure they prioritize their mental and physical health. And these virtual reality applications are just exploding in this space. And let me explain the one that I got to experience, which was including self talk for mental health. Envision yourself putting on a headset, you have an avatar, you say a positive affirmation to yourself. Say my positive affirmation is, “I can do this.”

Cindy Bjorkquist:
It could be related to a workout, it could be related to your job, whatever it is, “I can do this.” You’re looking at your avatar, you’re saying, “I can do this.” Then this self talk VR application will take you outside of your avatar and then you’re watching yourself say the positive affirmation, “I can do this.” So again, it’s using virtual reality for self talk to improve someone’s mental health, their well-being, and the application that that has for people that want to use that. You go to a therapist, you go to a counselor, they’re going to tell you to do positive affirmations. It’s taking it just a little bit further than that, saying, “I’m going to say it to myself, but then seeing myself say it to myself.”

Chuck Gaidica:
That’s pretty wild because in the old days, if you talk to yourself, that may have been your problem to begin with.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
I love that.

Chuck Gaidica:
In my case, I answer myself so I think I’m okay. This hearkens back to the old Saturday Night Live bit where I’m good enough, I’m strong enough and dog gone it, I like myself, looking in the mirror. But this is just a new spin on some of the things about self affirmation that we’ve all seen and heard, whether it’s tongue in cheek or otherwise.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Absolutely. I don’t think you and I can even think about where this field is going to be five years from now. Some of the stuff that I’ve been reading, applying virtual reality besides the exercise and the social and the mindfulness and meditation and all the things that we’ve been talking about, there’s a newer version of what’s happening in virtual reality and medicine, they actually call it therapeutic virtual reality. It’s where they’re using virtual reality technology for patients. Think about the application of… This is the example I’m talking about, when I read about pain control using virtual reality, they were talking about patients and putting headsets on.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
And for me, it’d be going to the mountains and whatever procedure I’m having done, then I would have less pain. So in my head I started thinking, “Well, why aren’t they using this for dentists?” And then I read an article that said dentists have been using it for five years.

Chuck Gaidica:
That is so wild you say that. I literally, today, no joke, I got a teeth cleaning. So no heavy duty lifting, but they put the little glasses on me so that the spray doesn’t come up, and I said, “Why aren’t these virtual reality glasses and I could be off somewhere else.” And they went, “Yeah, that’s a great idea.” And I thought, “Wow, it is a good idea.”

Cindy Bjorkquist:
I hope we don’t go to the same dentist because my dentist that I went to, it was like, I don’t know, a couple months ago. It was right after I started really diving into this. And I said to the dentist, “The light up there, you guys should actually do virtual reality in the light.” And then I read about it in an article. So that’s my point, the application of where this is going for, pain therapy, physical therapy, they’ve got anxiety, they’ve even have med students that are being trained using virtual reality. Because think about it, they could go inside the body, they could autopsy the body, but they could go inside the body and take a visual tour of what’s going on to really learn about things.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
So in this medical field beyond exercise and all the things that we’re talking about, the sky’s the limit on what’s going on right now.

Chuck Gaidica:
And while we’re hyper-focused on this, and I’m glad we are because it’s so interesting, there are still so many other options that we’re used to or that some of us haven’t even caught up to. So mobile apps, live streaming, and just wellness gadgets of many different kinds. And then there’s the stuff that we’re still goofing around with. Our grandkids find this to be so funny because they’ve gotten hooked on Wii sports, which is like the precursor to everything you’re talking about. So literally there’s my little avatar and I’m bowling with somebody. And so there is still the old school and then the people who are trying to catch up, who all they want to do is download an app on their phone, and to them, that’s as cool as it’s going to get.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Now, let’s talk about your comment about the Wii, because I have one of those in my basement too in a box somewhere. But remember, the Wii is, you see an avatar and you’re bowling, but you’re not in there, you’re not submerged. You remember those two things I talked about, which is submersion, you’re high immersion and your present. I’ve got to get you to try this, you need to try this because the difference is, with the Wii, I really didn’t feel like I was there. Yeah, it was fun, I was bowling with my avatar, whatever. When you put the headset on and you do the plank exercise and you do the elevator and your brain adjusts like Stanford University says, your brain cannot remain in two realities at the same time, so you think you’re there.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
So you’re not just bowling against an avatar, you’re standing next to the avatar. That’s the difference of the Wii and the virtual reality that we’re doing today, because I’ve done both. And this thing, when I started doing this with these headsets, it was something that literally blew me away. It was something that I just went, “No way. My brain. No, I’m not on a plank, I’m on this cement floor.” And that’s the difference. And I think that’s why people like it so much because your bikers, your runners, your hikers, they get to experience being in that environment. And you can still get a cardio workout, you can still do all those things, but for mindfulness and meditation and self care and just taking that deep breath to bring your anxiety down, that would require you to be in a place where you want to be.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
And that’s a cool thing about this too, is that I would be in the mountains, that’s my place, but another person might want to be underwater because the beach is their thing. So there’s an app out there where you can submerge yourself underwater, you’re sitting in the bottom of the ocean, you seriously think you’re on the bottom of the ocean, I haven’t done this one yet, but I’m going to do it, and you watch dolphins go by. And you swear you’re reaching out and you can touch a dolphin, and that kind of stuff. So you’re breathing and doing mindfulness meditation in an environment that you choose and you are there, your brain is telling you that you’re there.

Chuck Gaidica:
And I could see how that would be helpful. There could be somebody who’s afraid of the ocean or in my case, walking out on the plank, I’ll tell you what, I will fly an airplane as a pilot, but if you asked me to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, I would freak out, unless it’s on fire, I would freak out. So for me to learn how to walk the plank and jump would be kind of a nudge, forgive the pun, toward healthfulness because I’m afraid of that idea of walking a plank and going off the edge. So maybe we could break some bad habits or get past some phobias with the help of the technology too. That’s pretty well.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Absolutely. Absolutely. There are actual companies that are using virtual reality to even train their like truck drivers to, I’m in a truck and a semi and I’m driving, and what do you do if a kid runs out in front of you or a car? So they’re using it for that. There are companies that are using it for onboarding new employees. You put the headset on and it can take you into a spin of an environment of what, maybe it’s a multi global company and they actually are doing that.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
And to your point about how fast the industry is going, when I did this session on virtual reality for a program that I helped manage, which is called Blue Cross Virtual Well-Being, and you can get to it by bluecrossvirtualwellbeing.com, and I think you’re going to include the link in your show. On a Tuesday, I was talking about how it would be really cool to be in a meeting room and have the headset on and actually turn and look at you, like right now, I would be turning and looking at you like you’re sitting right next to me, that’s what it would bring to this.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
And then two days later, you get this big announcement that Facebook went live with actual meeting rooms where you can do that. So that’s how fast this industry is going, that they’re just cranking these apps out for people not only in fitness and well-being, but also for connectedness, or for your jobs, or we’re working remote, and so how does it play into that? There’s just so many different applications to the virtual reality.

Chuck Gaidica:
You are obviously on fire for this, but when you’ve now been in it, you’ve immersed yourself and you’re looking at it professionally as well, what do you see as drawbacks that you would wave any caution flags to any of us about being careful about going into these technologies? Is there?

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Yeah, there are. I think the main drawbacks for me are, one was the price, but the prices are coming down. So that’s good. Second is if you have any motion sickness at all, then it takes you a while to get acclimated to it. Now, I have severe motion sickness, you don’t want to take me fishing on Lake Erie. I’ve done that before, and it’s not a very good situation, but it took me like maybe 15 minutes to get used to it. But I think as an exercise physiologist, the drawback I have, and you brought it up a little bit earlier, is that people may use us as a crutch not to be face-to-face with people, and that they might get a little social isolation a little bit from that real live.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
I want to be in the studio with you right now talking, we can do this virtually, but it really is cool to be with you. And so these people might tend to draw back from really meeting with people face-to-face, and you would lose those communication skills. Now, I say that only because I’m not a gamer and I’m not a person submerged in this. My son who is a gamer and a submersion has his job around this. He would tell me, that’s why he gave me the lecture about it being a lifestyle, and that people who use us a lot are aware of that danger. And they really balance it in their life.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
There’s not a fear of that for them, and that the world is changing and the benefits that he gets from his global interaction from people all over the world offset the fact that he’s not getting on a plane and going to Sweden or something. So balance is the key, I think, with anything.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. I can see that. We have a daughter who’s a Dave Matthews nut. And so, I don’t know, in the past half dozen years, 42 concerts in multiple places, literally being there. Now, that’s the way that whole thing works, however, I could also see that if she found out there’s one next week in Seattle and she can’t just hop on a plane to go, and she could wear the little ribbon that says, “I was there virtually,” and now it’s 43, but it wasn’t the real deal, she’s still holistically into it, but yet this is a supplement, it’s an addition, it’s a gee-whiz factor. So yeah, maybe it’ll all find its way into a nice little package.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Give it a couple of years because globally, we’re already there. He took me to that concert. I think the concert was either out of China or Russia, somewhere like that, but because this is his field, he is global in what he does. And he will constantly always tell me that the United States is behind on this kind of stuff. So the stuff that he’s involved with, all the concerts, all the get-togethers, usually gets people from all over the world and they’re used to it already. We’re just a little bit slow coming to it, but she’ll have that concert in a couple of years, I guarantee it,

Chuck Gaidica:
Now, you went right past something that I find very interesting about this, and I guess there’s an up and a downside to the notion of cost, because we know this with streaming and all the options we now have for watching our favorite programs. How many different services can we get, and yet we do. And in this case, are we going to pay to have our bike with a screen, bike the Swiss Alps? Are we going to then have an app or 10 of the apps on our phone that do something, and then we’re going to have the virtual reality glasses, and then we’re going to have the gadget on my wrist, my Apple Watch, it tells me it’s time to sit, stand do and whatever.

Chuck Gaidica:
And so at some point you would hope there would be continuity, but I don’t see that they’re combining all of this into one service that makes it simple. It just seems like we’ve got to pick and choose, right?

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Yeah. I think for the people that are dabbling it, it is a little scattered, but I think, again, I’m so fortunate to learn from my son who is doing this, he has it all rolled into what he does. So he built his own computer, but he purchased the interface and the system that gives him the ability to do everything. So that’s what he would say. I would say, yes, I’ve got a watch on, I use this for multiple things, I’ve got a bike right here and all that kind of stuff. But I think in the future what you’re going to see is right now, and I’m having to say future, I’m going to backtrack on that, right now you buy a device, then you buy apps to go on that device.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
And so what he was explaining to me is that underwater one, I could add that for like, I think it’s $10, add that underwater one to the system that he has because the apps are super cheap once you get the system. Once you get the goggles and you get the things in your hands, whatever one you’re going to use, because there’s multiple ones out there, then you just very cheaply be able to add apps to that to do what you want to do. It’s driven by the system that you purchase.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Now, the system was out of control. When I first learned about this like five or six years ago, I was dabbling in it in the fitness world to see what was going on, they were very expensive and they’ve drastically come down because again, more researchers are looking into what it can do, particularly for fitness, which is a huge boom. People make a lot of money off fitness, but then the applications to all the different things in our life like medical, anxiety, and counseling, and all the things that it can apply to. So now in the last five years, it’s been exploding

Chuck Gaidica:
And what should we take into consideration when we’re trying to implement other technologies into workouts or we’re trying to bring our gadgets along? Do you have advice if we step away from the virtual reality world from it and what should we be thinking about when we’re trying to implement this stuff to make our lives work with fitness and health?

Cindy Bjorkquist:
I’m a huge proponent of using what will make you happy. And it sounds so simplistic, but you can’t use a device that’s so complicated that it stresses you out, and you can’t get this reliance on your device. And I’ll give you an example of what by reliance on your device. I was so obsessed at one point in my life for making sure that every run that I went on was logged onto my watch, that if I went for a run and I forgot my watch and it wasn’t on, I would run home and get my watch and then go for my run, or on my Apple Watch, I would not hit activity.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
I’m going for an outdoor run and then maybe two miles into it and go, “Oh shoot.” And flip back over again. Don’t be so reliant on it that it stresses you out, causes you anxiety, find something that’s fun, it works for you, it’s in your price range, and you enjoy using it, because at the end of the day, your physical health is important, your mental health is just as important and you have to balance both of them together.

Chuck Gaidica:
And your budget is important.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Exactly

Chuck Gaidica:
In my case, I do have a lot of tech, I like that. I am not in a VR world yet, but then I still have, I guess it would still be considered old school though I know they still make them and I see them, an Assault bike. The one that looks like the Airdyne, where you’ve got the handles, I just like the heft of it, I like the weight of it. And I thought, “Well, I should get a new bike with a big screen.” And I thought, “No, I like my bike. I just like that bike. And so I’m going to stick with that bike and then I’ll let the technology fill in around me.” And so far, that’s bringing me joy and happiness, and I guess that’s what you’re saying, just go with your own flow, right?

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Yeah. And I think people, and we go back to the cons of this or some things that you might be thinking about, for me personally, I read so much, you brought up forest bathing. I read so much about nature and the application of being out in nature. The virtual reality gives me the ability to go to a mountain to meditate, but I still think you cannot replace me getting on my bike or putting on my hiking shoes and being in trees, because for me, that’s how I regenerate my self-care, that’s how I get my energy back, both mentally and physically and spiritually is to be in trees.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
And so I think maybe 99.5% of it is put it on and go on the top of the mountain, but I don’t know, I’m old school, I’m still an advocate for going for a walk in the trees, Chuck.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. And we live into the prettiest state in the world for fall, but there are only so many weekends you can go experience that for real. And then if it rains, well then maybe that changed your weekend. So I can still see this as an adjunct where maybe in the middle of a blizzard, you can visit Hawaii and calm your life down. It’s just something that you can fit in in places.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
I don’t know, I took up snow fat tire biking last winter. So when you said the blizzard, I’m still out there in the trees.

Chuck Gaidica:
You don’t have enough things you’re doing. Oh my gosh, that’s great.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Yeah. Getting out of the snow too. It’s interesting. I think, and we’ve said this a couple of times, what does the future hold? I got to bring up one crazy thing because you’ll enjoy talking about this with your son. The one thing that blew me away a little bit is the idea of brain computer interface. That’s where we’re going with this eventually, is brain computer interface. And the way that this was explained to me is that it’s about computer-based system, like a computer that acquires brain signals when you do something, it analyzes it and then it translate that into a command that makes you do something.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
And I’ll tell you how they came to it really quick. They had monkeys sitting at a computer with a joystick, you know an old joystick we used to use?

Chuck Gaidica:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Then the monkey, if he moved the joystick that made a box go to the upper right of the screen, he got a sip of like a drink. So the monkey was sitting there doing the joystick back and forth and the box was moving and he was getting his drink. And then the researcher mapped the signals from his brain of when he was making it go right, go left, go up and go down. Then they unplugged the joystick and they were able to map the brain of the monkey and what he thought when he wanted the cursor to go up, and then it led to him moving it with his brain.

Chuck Gaidica:
I just read that there’s a major car manufacturer says, they’re going to have a… We already hear about self-driving cars. It will self-drive based on your thoughts.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Yes, exactly.

Chuck Gaidica:
And so, that is like driving an entire vehicle like a Segway. You don’t have to lean to just make it go, it feels like you’re thinking, well, actually you’re leaning and the thing moves forward, but this is different. This is exactly what you’re talking about. It is coming right before our eyes, it’s happening around us right now.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Crazy stuff. I envision, the application for me would be, I would close my eyes and think about meditating on that mountain, and I wouldn’t have to put the headset on, I wouldn’t have to put the hair. And I would just think… It’s scary stuff, but little mind controllers, but I think there’s so many applications now that if people have not tried this and they want to try something different, every time we try something different that folds into our well-being as well. It builds some synapses. You can actually build new brain cells by trying something new.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
And I think that’s what I got out of it as well, is I just had a whole bunch of new synapses and brain cells forming when I tried this because I was so engaged and so in submerged into this environment that I was really having a lot of fun.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. There’s just so much here you’re talking about. I’m just envisioning you’re putting on a set of goggles or eventually, it’ll just be a pair of glasses that tint, like the kind that tint when you go outside in the sun, so maybe someday it’ll get that easy, but you literally could be taking advantage of an increase in your health and wellness while walking through, pick one, the Sistine Chapel, while walking through the forest. You could be experiencing art, beauty, nature while getting a workout. It doesn’t have to seem like it’s all heavy lifting.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Yeah. Like I’m on my treadmill, like you said, if it’s pouring down rain, I don’t run in the rain. So if it’s pouring down rain, I’m on my treadmill in my basement. Today you can look at a screen, but I don’t know how you would do a VR headset on when you’re running, I might fall off the treadmill, but you get it, you submerge yourself into a different environment and it tricks your brain. And I need to remember to give you the name of the game that I played of the boxes that were flying at you, because if you ever do try this, I can’t remember the name of it, but you should try this because that in itself, the squats that you are doing and the moving from… I was sore the next day, I was really shocked on how much of a cardio workout I was getting.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
And I was laughing, not a cardio workout where you’re going out and you’re doing interval training and you’re not laughing, I was laughing while I was cardio working. And so that laughing and joy, that’s why they say that people that do this stuff have a lower rate of what they think they’re doing for an exertion, but at the end of the day, they match heart rate and blood pressure and all the things that you look at cardiovascular, and you’re working harder because you’re having so much fun doing it.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
We go back to what you said you got to find something that resonates with you, that’s fun, that you want to engage with and brings you joy, and then you’ll do it more often.

Chuck Gaidica:
And there’s something else that you’ve embraced and a lot of us do this and we don’t even think about it. I read a title of something and it’s called Reverse Mentoring. And at first I thought, “Wait a minute. Oh, I get it. So we can teach our kids how to change the oil in the car or screw in a light bulb.” As parents, there are certain things we should be teaching our kids, but the kids can also be teaching us. And this notion that there can be, if you’re open to it, reverse mentoring, that your son is showing you a whole new world and you’re embracing it. That’s fantastic.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Isn’t that what happens? I have to tell him the fancy words that you use, reverse mentoring, because when this topic came up a couple of months ago when I wanted to do a show on this for Virtual Well-Being, that’s exactly what I did is I called him and said, “Can I have an hour of your time and you can school me?” And then I started reading all the research, and he schooled me more than a lot of the articles that I read.

Chuck Gaidica:
That’s great. Well, you’ve run through so many things for us, if you could close your eyes for a minute and pick one thing that you think is achievable in the very near future, what would be something you’d like to see created or improved upon? You’ve talked about a few of them already, something that would help us all with our health and well-being. What would that be in technology?

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Probably for me, because in my very long career, in this field, the number one thing that is hard for people to do is change their behavior, change their behavior to get healthier. And so probably my wish would be whatever it is, whatever application it is that it would help people not become accountable because that sounds like a negative, but help people get into the I can do it where they actually take that step forward to improve their health, whatever it is, start exercising, start meditating, start eating better, whatever it is that it helps people understand that there’s some urgency when it comes to overall well-being and health, and it helps them make that first step.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Because once you take that first step, like when you put your tennis shoes on and you go off for a walk or a run, once you take that tennis shoes around, you lace them up and you get out the door, then it becomes okay, then you breathe, and then you’re there and the oxygen starts flowing. You’re bathing your body in feel good things that go on, hormones and enzymes, all the things that happen in your body when you start exercising or doing what you need to do, somehow just help people get there. That would be my wish.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. And any other takeaways you want for us because today, you are our chief encourager. You really are. You’re like an evangelist for this stuff. I’m just on fire. I want to get all this stuff now.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
You keep using the word fire, and I laugh at that because when I did the Virtual Well-Being session, I kept saying, “My brain was on fire, my brain was on fire.”

Chuck Gaidica:
I’m excited.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Yeah. Maybe the one more thing to leave people with is maybe virtual reality isn’t what you’re looking to do, but I got so excited because I tried something new and there is a lot of research on overall well-being and how you can improve that by trying something new. So whether that be virtual reality, whether it be starting to exercise, start to eat, or build things. I’m also an avid builder with power tools, is just something I love to do.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Find something that you’ve always wanted to do as a child or young adult, and then just do it because you’re building new brain cells, you’re building new cells in your brain, new synapses, but it gives you that, I don’t know, that revitalization to keep going in life and to have some passion and some joy about something. So try something new. It may be it’s not VR, but it might be VR.

Chuck Gaidica:
I’ve got fat-tire biking in the winter on my list now. So I’m encouraged. That’s good.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Come with me. We’ll go in the trees in the snow. And it’s amazing.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, one more shout out for the Virtual Well-Being webinars, how do we find those?

Cindy Bjorkquist:
These are webinars that we started in January, 2019 and they’re live shows and they’re on Thursdays at noon. And you can get there, our landing page is, just Google bluecrossvirtualwellbeing.com. It’ll get you to a landing page. There are employer ones on Tuesdays that you’ll see, so don’t hit that one, hit the member one. So you don’t have to be a member of Blue Cross, it’s member and public. We opened them to the public. You’ll see past webinars and you’ll see future webinars you can register for.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
They’re like a quick live show where you see me on camera, we talk about different topics every single week. They’re all stored on demand. So you can listen to them at your own leisure if you want to, but they’re all topics about well-being, how to improve your well-being. And hopefully, we inspire a lot of people. There’s a weight loss section on Thursdays, we call it Drop Five. It’s a virtual community of thousands of people to get together to lose five pounds at a time and encourage everybody. So it’s really cool thing that Blue Cross is actually funded on Thursdays.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, that’s fantastic. And we’ll make sure we put the link in the show notes so everybody can go back and find those. It is so great to catch up with you again.

Cindy Bjorkquist:
Oh, wonderful. It’s always a pleasure.

Chuck Gaidica:
Thanks Cindy Bjorkquist who is currently director of health and well-being programs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan joining us today with so much cool stuff to talk about. We’re glad you’re with us. Thanks for listening to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. It’s brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. If you like the show, you want to know more, you can check us out at ahealthiermichigan.org/podcast. You can leave us reviews or ratings. We actually encourage you to do that on Apple Podcast or Stitcher.

Chuck Gaidica:
You can get new episodes, old episodes for your smartphone or tablet. And always subscribe to us on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. I’m Chuck Gaidica. Be well.