THE BLOG

Try It: Make Being Healthy Into a Game

10/08/2010 12:29 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Two-thirds of our country is overweight or obese. The current generation is predicted to have a shorter life span than their parents for the first time in recorded history, by up to 10 years. And the greatest killer in our country, the greatest single threat to our lives is not terrorism, but poor health. The situation is totally out of hand. We all know that we have to do something, and it's not like we aren't trying. Last year alone we spent $60 billion trying to lose weight and get healthy only to watch our health and the health of our nation continue to plummet. So, is all hope lost? Not at all! Because, while the problem couldn't be more serious, the solution just might be a game ... literally.

I recently watched a video of a subway station in Stockholm, Sweden. It was noticed that when given the option between stairs and an escalator to get out of the subway the overwhelming majority took the escalator. And trust me, that isn't only happening in Sweden. But why is this the case? It's not like people don't know how to use the stairs, and it's not that people are necessarily opposed to getting a little exercise. Is it because it's easier, or is because we have simply gotten into the habit of taking the escalator?

So a group asked the question "What if we made the stairs more fun to use than the escalator?" Could they change people's behavior quickly and easily simply by making the healthier choice more fun?

One night a whole team came in and painted the stairs into a full piano keyboard that actually played the corresponding notes. Now, not only were the stairs visually interesting but as soon as a person stepped on it and hit the low C it became a game to walk up and down the stairs making music. Do you think it made a difference? In less than a day 66 percent more people were using the stairs.

As people continue taking the stairs, they are forming a new habit. And soon they will be taking the stairs whether they make music or not.

What if we applied this same technique to our health? We all know that we should be drinking more water, eating more fruits and vegetables and getting a little exercise on a daily basis. So what if we make "being healthy" a game? Parents naturally do this all the time with their children. First one to finish all their vegetables gets to choose the movie we watch. Whoever remembers to brush their teeth without being asked gets to read an extra book before bed.

Why did we ever stop doing that? The most mundane things can become super fun if we put them in the context of a game. Here are a couple of our favorites. Try them for yourself and see why the solution to one of the most serious issues we face could very easily be a game.

  • Go for a walk: in your neighborhood, down a city sidewalk, or to the store and see how many people you can pass in 10 minutes.
  • See how early in the day you can find five things to be grateful for. Every day try to beat your previous day's time.
  • Take the stairs at work or in the mall and see if you can beat the elevator or escalator to the floor you are going to. This is especially possible in buildings where people are getting on and off at most of the floors.
  • Every time you are at a restaurant try to finish a glass of water before the waiter brings your main dish.
  • Bring a bag of carrots to work, eat them throughout the day making "mmm mmm" sounds every time you eat them and see how many other people you can get to ask you if they can have one of your carrots.

These are just a couple fun ways to get healthier in no time. Try these or invent your own. And if you do find a good one, visit us at www.completebalance.com so we can share it with the world. But either way, start playing a health game with yourself and your family. You will not only lose weight, have more energy and feel better overall, but you will find yourself being more playful throughout each day.

Let the games begin,
The Baietto Brothers