Exercise and Fitness

How Data can Help as a Motivational Tool for Well-being

Alastair DavidsonUK Content Specialist

Hands up if you recognize the following scenario…

Person A sets themselves a challenge to improve their health and well-being. To help reach their goal, they sign up for a new fitness program and promise themselves they’ll get more sleep. But, fast forward a couple of months, and they’ve slipped back into their old routine. Why does this happen?

Maintaining motivation is crucial when it comes to staying on track. But, if it doesn’t feel like the hard yards are paying off, or the sacrifices being made aren’t having any impact, the conviction to continue along the same path can soon dwindle. Indeed, not seeing immediate benefits are one of the main causes of people quitting the gym or stepping away from exercise.

That is where data can come in. Objective data can be a tool for motivation and, used correctly, can have a major impact at every step of the journey towards improved health and well-being.

Ignorance isn’t bliss

Taking that first step to improve your health and well-being can be the toughest. Indeed, if the numbers aren’t there to back it up, any nagging doubts about whether we’re where we want to be can easily be swept under the carpet and ignored. Presenting someone with clear, personalized data can be the jolt they need to make a positive change to their lifestyle.

For instance, being able to accurately see the amount of time spent exercising – or discovering your ‘Fitness Level‘ from one simple 30-minute walk as will soon be possible with the Firstbeat Lifestyle Assessment – can inspire someone to take the initiative and introduce meaningful change. It can be easy to sleepwalk into an unhealthy lifestyle. Being shown the data can be the eureka moment that puts you on the right path.

In the words of Colin Thomas, who strives to improve the health of the UK as Clinical Lead Physiologist at BMI Healthcare, “You can tell people until you’re blue in the face (about the importance of physical activity) but when you actually see it being measured and your score on a report, that’s when it hits home a lot more.”

Proof of progress

Toiling away in the gym can feel like a struggle at times. Especially if you’re building up a sweat without seeing any obvious impact. The same can be said for those who make changes to their daily routine and sacrifice things they have become so used to. Being provided with data that shows the actual physiological progress being made under the surface can work wonders for maintaining motivation.

The power of small wins is a concept that is used in all walks of life – from business to sport, to mental health work – and data helps document this. if someone can see that heading to bed an hour earlier than normal led to better overnight recovery, or that switching out eating lunch at the office desk for a 30-minute exercise class reduced stress during the day they are more inclined to embrace these changes.

“Seeing the data in front of you in the form of an easy-to-interpret report really opens people’s eyes and acts as a motivating factor,” says Firstbeat Exercise Physiologist Tiina Hoffman. “By showing scientifically backed data that relates to everything from quality of sleep to life’s stressors and the impact of physical activity, the hope is that it will inspire people to make changes to their lifestyle.”

That’s why regular monitoring and data collection is more beneficial than relying on one single data set. Being able to see the progress made over a period of time legitimizes the work done in-between and reassures individuals they’re on the right track.

“Regular follow-up measurements provide the opportunity for positive reinforcement by showing whether the lifestyle changes are having a positive influence,” continues Hoffman.

Fueling the fire

At Firstbeat, we work with elite sports teams across the globe to help optimize player performance. In doing so, we hear a lot of feedback from Strength and Conditioning coaches and Sports Scientists about the competitive side of data collection among athletes who want to be the best. But the internal forces at work that see them striving to ‘beat’ their previous scores aren’t only reserved for elite athletes.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory in psychology which concerns motivation and comprises of a five-tier model of human needs ranging from ‘Physiological Needs’ such as food and water, up to ‘Self-Actualization’. Self-actualization refers to “achieving one’s full potential” and “seeking personal growth” and is something that everyone has the desire, and potential, to reach.

Personalized data which monitors physiological metrics is an effective way of helping an individual assess whether they are in fact “achieving their full potential”. Taking the new Fitness Level feature set to be introduced to Firstbeat Lifestyle Assessment in September as an example, discovering you are within touching distance of moving from one Fitness Level to another could be the motivating factor you need to take things to the next level.

Without motivation, very little is possible. Adding relevant and useful data to your toolkit is one effective way of helping you keep on track, validate what you are doing and, ultimately, achieve the goals you set out to accomplish.

Read more about Fitness Level

Alastair Davidson

UK Content Specialist

Alastair is a Content Specialist who has previously worked in sports journalism and tech communication. These experiences now help him create unique content about Firstbeat's role in sports and wellness in the form of blogs and case studies. An avid sports fans, Alastair continues to play football in his native U.K., and enjoys keeping up with the latest wellness trends.

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