There is no dearth of health and fitness apps that promise to help you improve your life in every meaningful way possible. They can help you lose weight, stop drinking and smoking, eat well, sleep better, exercise more, be fitter, track any body metric you can imagine, run, bike, practice yoga, meditate, challenge your brain, train your thoughts, regulate your emotions, be more mindful in your day and basically be just that bit more happier.
These apps are in many ways like a personal trainer in your pocket. But are they able to fully deliver on that promise?
Here are the key principles of the model I’ve developed, that great personal trainers abide by and you can use to make your product more effective at creating healthy habits that stick.
*TEAR-FActory is an acronym for Trust, Education, Assessment, Regimen, Feedback and Accountability.
Establish credibility and build trust: Come across as an authority on the subject matter; people believe and follow trainers they can trust. Share evidence for the scientific validity of the activities you are asking your users to do. Showcase your past results to establish your credibility (social-proof principle). The best Personal Trainers form a personal bond (therapeutic alliance principle) with the user, show up consistently and effect beneficial change by enabling people to help themselves.
Educate interactively: Teach the key points of the subject-matter by making the user interact with you/trainer or the education material in a playful manner to foster learning and maximize retention. A Personal Trainer employs thoughtfully put together content to facilitate the right mindset, clarify expected benefits and keep the user motivated.
Periodically assess motivation, beliefs, needs and goals. Understand relevant environmental & lifestyle factors: It’s your job to understand and be on top of your user’s underlying motivations, beliefs, needs and goals. You should know about the lifestyle and environmental factors that tend to affect their goals. You should track this data diligently while being aware of periodic changes in any of the above factors.
Prescribe a personalized, always-adapting regimen or program: Provide a personalized action plan of core activities; make them easier or turn up the difficulty based on user’s performance. Provide simple, clear instructions along with the activities, to get compliance that’ll build up to meaningful results. Start with micro-habits to get a user their first victory and increase the likelihood of habit formation. Focus on making it super easy to start the day’s activities. Adapt the regimen based on their changing needs.
A Personal Trainer fosters compliance to the right regimen and keeps user’s on track.
Provide well-timed, personalized insights, user-effort based feedback and change recommendations: Get the user to a first win early in their experience and if possible, make that win explicit. Give simplified but metrics based feedback derived from true data. Acknowledge and encourage good compliant behaviors. Discourage harmful practices and habits. Provide environment & lifestyle change recommendations as needed. Provide positive reinforcement to keep motivation high. Use negative reinforcement only to kick start the habit and to ensure compliance in the right manner. Most importantly, maintain variability in the feedback, so the user looks forward to the next step in the program.
Create accountability: Check-in with the user regularly and if possible daily. Get a user to make a solid commitment, preferably in writing. Provide scheduled reminders as triggers. Create pressure to comply by getting them to make their commitment or even their progress visible to friends and family.