Getting Motivated — with a little help from my friend by Zoe Richmond

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to go outside and play with my friends.  At my house, punishment was staying indoors.  But nowadays, it’s not that easy to get motivated and active.

I know staying healthy is important.  I can’t be a good mother if I am not healthy.  Not to mention, I want to pass along good habits to my children.  I have to set a good example.  I eat the broccoli so they will eat the broccoli and go on walks so they will drop the iPad and walk too.

It is a challenge to get outside when there is so much work that needs to be done indoors.  When I was 8, my girlfriend lived across the street.  She was the knock on the door, begging me to go outside and play.  Now, she lives three hours away.  But she could still be a motivating force?  Could she call or text me everyday and we could take a virtual walk?

Ann had a better idea.  She was “kicking her family into gear” and suggested downloading Playground Health.

It’s On!

Playground Health is a free app that makes tracking activity assessable for even the most lack luster exerciser. More importantly, since I am not willing to spend $200 on a wrist gadget, it only requires your phone.

Ann and I began a friendly wager:  see who could get the most steps in a week, loser buys the bottle of wine.  Competition, specifically with a life-long friend, was enough to get me motivated.

I reached out to app creators, Ted Grajeda and Josh Pearson, they had worked together for years in the world of Health IT before starting Playground Health.   Their idea came from noticing the personal health technology industry was lacking two things – motivation and accessibility for the masses.

“When you were a kid you never thought of staying fit, you were just playing,” Pearson said.   “With Playground Health, you just need the app, no fancy watch.  You already have your phone and most people have their phone on them at all times.”

Grajeda likes to focus on the communal aspects of working out.

“It’s great if someone is already working out,” said Ted. “But what if you want to get everyone else involved?   People work better in teams and in communities.”

The idea behind the team concept is a little effort can make a difference.  If your group’s goal is 50,000 steps, it may motivate you to take an afternoon walk as a way to help your team reach that goal.

I like the App because it provides basic information that is easy to understand and share.  There are lots of ways to customize the level of openness, if sharing your activity sounds intimidating.

The one drawback is without a smart watch, you have to have your phone on you at all times.  Ann and I have found it also does a pretty good job of tracking steps when your phone is in your purse.  Then the catch is, your purse has to be on your shoulder while you walk.  With this limitation, Ann has continuously beaten me.  The App doesn’t capture the miles I walk all around my house constantly chasing after the boys.

Competition vs. Collaboration

The social aspects of Playground Health allow for collaboration or competition.

“Let’s raise the stakes,” Ann said. “Let’s make it a competition between our families.  Loser buys the churros at Disneyland.”  (Ann is always trying to get me to Disneyland)

That’s where we find another hitch with Playground Health.  To use it in competition or collaboration with your family, your kids need to be old enough to have their own OS device. (Which my kids aren’t, not to mention Ann’s kids are older so our families would not be evenly matched.)

But, I do like the idea of expanding how we get the family moving.  When my kids are older, everyone can use the app to track his or her steps throughout the week.  The family member with the most steps gets to choose what movie to watch on Saturday.

If a family is not motivated by competition, there is also the option for collaboration.

“There are team challenges where everyone is walking towards a specific goal,” said Josh.  “There is an MVP award for the most steps, but we didn’t just want to have competition, we also wanted to have collaboration.”

For example, we could set a family goal of 10,000 steps.  If we reach the goal by Friday night, everyone is treated to ice cream with sprinkles.  Okay, if we are trying to be healthier, maybe frozen yogurt is a better treat.

One step at a time

The goal of Playground Health is to have its users take small steps that can lead to big improvements in health.

As a father of three kids, Ted wants to instill healthy habits in his children.

“When my kids and I walk to school, we get to walk with all the other students and parents,” said Ted.  “Those are little victories and it adds to the inclusiveness of the community.”

Playground Health wants you to find your own little victories too.

“The focus is to be spurred to be active,” said Josh.  “One of the biggest health crisis, obesity, is a result of sedentary lifestyle.”

My little victory is actually three in one.  My afternoon walk is a healthier option than watching TV, it creates a mental reset, and it keeps me connected with my friend.