Our Toronto office staff recently indicated that wellness support in the workplace was needed. In response to this feedback, our human resources department launched a 30-day wellness challenge supported by a mHealth application in May. Daily tracking and recording of water intake, steps, exercise, mindful breathing and healthy eating gained us points to put individuals and teams on the leader board and hopefully, encourage conscious healthy lifestyle changes.

With the challenge behind us, I sat with my colleague, Sarah Beales, to chat about her experience participating in this initiative. Here’s what she had to say:

If you could summarize your experience using this mHealth application in one word, what would it be?

Motivating. 

That sounds positive. Overall, do you feel that you successfully made healthy lifestyle changes through this challenge?

Definitely. While I feel that I live a relatively healthy lifestyle, and fit in exercise when I can, this experience made me accountable. Taking photos, which were then posted within the app for everyone to see, certainly made me more conscious of what I was eating and I was near obsessed with drinking my two liters of water (to get all 16 points in this category) per day.

So you got competitive with the gamification aspect of the application?

Oh yes, both with myself and my team! I would check the leader board daily and looked forward to receiving my weekly status email updates. It was all in good fun. I think it was great to build comradery with colleagues I don’t work with on a daily basis.

What do you feel was the most useful part of the application?

While daily exercise was somewhat unachievable, the 5000 step challenge was certainly do-able with just a little extra effort. I found myself walking to the store rather than taking the car or getting off the subway two stops early during my commute to the office. It certainly kept me moving.

There are plans to hold these challenges every three months. Do you have any suggestions for the next round of challenges?

Perhaps raising the step target to 10,000. It would require a significant effort to achieve that each day and would probably need to be held in the summer so there are more opportunities to walk outdoors. It would also be great if the application could provide notifications to complete tasks. I don’t normally take photos of my food, so I frequently forgot until after I was done eating, and found myself taking pictures of banana peels to get points for my team!

Upon reflection following my experience with the challenge and hearing about Sarah’s, I realized that participating in this initiative was nothing short of positive. It had me making healthy decisions when eating out on the weekends, making sure that I made the time to get to that yoga class every Tuesday night, and even having my team pause for a mindful moment during a meeting to reset our perspective. When I think about our experience in relation to my previous blog, mHealth: Everyday Health Management Meets Clinical Research, personally participating in this challenge and utilizing mHealth technology to track behaviors was a strong indicator that motivation and compliance can be increased with the right applications and wearable devices.