We all do better with a little bit of feedback: getting an A on a paper feels good and inspires you to earn another one. This applies to a healthy lifestyle, too -- a study released this month by the American College of Sports Medicine found that adults who got real-time feedback about their diet and exercise progress were more likely to stick with their program.
The study paired 189 overweight adults with one of three ways to keep track of their efforts: paper records, a personal digital assistant or a personal digital assistant that provided response messages like “You still have time to meet your physical activity goals. Hint: take a walk, it will pay off!” and “Super job on the physical activity. Try to repeat this tomorrow.” Those participants that received the messages were more likely to follow their exercise plan and lost more weight at the end of the six-month trial period.
After I read the study, I decided to put the principles to the test. I dug up a web app by MeYou Health called The Daily Challenge that sends you an email every morning at 7 a.m. with a healthy lifestyle goal for that day. You earn points by completing the challenge (there’s a pretty little “DONE!” button to click and everything) and the points help you track how far you’ve come since the beginning of your journey.
I’ve only been using the app for three days, but already I am completely on board with this concept. My first challenge was to do five minutes of all-out physical activity (of course, I didn’t see the email until after I did 30 minutes of weight training that morning), so it was instant gratification to push “Done!” The second day's challenge was to get my daily allotment of folic acid, with a few recommended sources listed in the text. As I poured my cereal, I actually looked at the amount of folic acid in my serving size -- something I never would have thought to do otherwise. I felt pretty accomplished before 9am, I must say. Today’s challenge was to smile at three people -- okay, not exactly calorie-burning --but you can't really fault an app that wants you to live a healthy and happy life.
Encouragement helps, period. But sometimes it can be intimidating to share your exercise and healthy eating goals with another person. But sharing them with your phone -- which you probably already share everything with anyway -- makes perfect sense, is discreet and is super-motivating. Give The Daily Challenge a shot and see if it works for you!