The Numbers Game

27 Jun / The Numbers Game

by Mike Tinney

Who here wants to look like the people on TV? I don’t mean the character actors. I mean the stars. The fit, stylish, witty, well paid… Stars. Most of us aspire to it either consciously or subconsciously. How can we help ourselves? We’re bombarded with this elite look and appeal. This level of poise, radiance and fashion. We see it in our movies and TV. We see it in ads. We see it online. We’re sold it… constantly.

The Fitness Industry is Huge

The fitness industry is huge.

We spend more on personal fitness, weight loss and wellbeing ($1+ trillion) than we do on video games ($137 billion) or hollywood ($40 billion). It’s a huge industry… massive. Which is no doubt why the United States is the healthiest and fittest nation on earth. Right? Look at our investment in looking and feeling good. It’s paying off… right? Right?

Insurance statistics suggest a different outcome. Chronic Disease (heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, etc.) is typically the result of lifestyle decisions/behavior. Chronic Disease is also the leading cause of death in the US at 1.7 million lives per year.

75% of our health expenses are attributable to a Chronic Disease.

It accounts for severe disability in 25 million Americans. Once you have a Chronic Disease it is manageable, but typically incurable.

For every 100 employees you have, many are unhealthy

From the lens of an employer it’s even scarier. For every 100 employees, statistically you have this health “scorecard:”

69 are overweight
36 of those are obese
12 have diabetes (3 don’t know it)
33 have high blood pressure
17 have high cholesterol
33 have high triglycerides
19 smoke
95 fail to get enough exercise
62 have sleep issues
77 struggle with stress
9 suffer from depressive issues

It is suggested that as few as 5% of Americans get the Department of Health’s recommended amount of physical activity (150 minutes) every week.

How is this possible? We spend more on our health and fitness than we do on games or movies… and yet… we’re failing. We’re failing on nutrition. We’re failing on exercise. And our national health “scorecard” shows it.

We clearly WANT to be healthier, or fitter, or prettier. Our purchasing signal there is very clear. But the purchase is just the beginning. It’s the pre-game. It’s the behavior change that’s the hard part. And the consistency. Vince Lombardi once said, you don’t win by doing something right some of the time. You win by doing the right thing all of the time. Winning is a habit, unfortunately so is losing. From a health perspective… we’re in the habit of losing.

So how do you crack the code? How do you alter behavior? How does an individual do it? How can an institution do it?

There are plenty of things anyone can try. We’ve got no shortage of programs, solutions, methodologies. What most people are missing is the consistent nudge. The positive feedback in the moment of pain and sacrifice. The “loop,” if you will, that they can get into and stay in.

The Outbreak Walking Challenge

We made a game. A game about surviving a zombie outbreak. The game lasts 6 weeks. You play with a team of coworkers or friends. You work together. The game lives on your phone, and your phone knows your steps. Your real world steps and exercise become points in the game. You spend your steps to run across the gameboard to get to the next safehouse. You spend your exercise points to fight through groups of zombies blocking your way.

On week one, you need 4,000 steps per day, and about 30 active minutes that week… on week six, you need 8,000 steps per day and 150 active minutes that week. Outside of the simplest, high-level “steps and exercise” our game does not teach users what to do (there are endless people, trainers, apps etc. that tell you what to do). Our game shores up the why, in a simple and entertaining way.

Results? Our average completion rate is 91%. So, for every 100 people who start our challenge 91 of them complete it. Everyone who completes our challenge ends it doing 8,000 steps a day and 150 minutes of exercise per week. We’d like more people to play the game. We think that will help our health “scorecard.”

Until next time,



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