Vivecoach: Creating challenges that make it fun to stay healthy and fit

by Linda Hubbard on May 18, 2011

“Fear the beard” helped the San Francisco Giants win the World Series. The founders of Vivecoach, a social gaming startup, are betting that “Beat the sloth” will help people get healthy and stay fit.

Jennifer Gill Roberts and Doug Keare, who both live and work in Menlo Park, believe people will adopt better fitness and wellness practices if they can have some fun along the way. Hence the sloth named Hubble, Vivecoach’s cheerleader of sorts. Explains Jennifer: “That sloths are slothful is a stereotype that isn’t true. Hubble may be slow, but he’s also steady, which makes him a good pacer.”

The startup sells its service to businesses; employees participate in challenges through a browser-based application. “Companies are pushing people to get healthier,” says Doug. “Vivecoach challenges bring people together.”

Health challenges can be set up for numerous activities and various durations. They can be based around individuals attaining the top spot, competing teams (the folks from product versus sales, for  example), or all challenge participants can aim for one collective goal (i.e. 1 million total minutes of exercise this month). Details about Vivecoach challenges are on the company website.

“There’s so much health and fitness information out there that it’s overwhelming,” says Jennifer. “We break it down into small things that you’re going to do every day. The idea is to reinforce simple activities not big goals.”

In partnership with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Vivecoach developed a youth application as a community service. The program, called WAY2GO, was the recipient of this year’s Hilary E.C. Millar Award for Innovative Approaches to Adolescent Health Care. Using Vivecoach, 250 Silicon Valley area teenagers received health messaging that helped them work on daily health goals.

Do the founders of Vivecoach practice what they preach? Both play basketball. Jennifer is on a local women’s team, the Menlo Cosmos. Doug plays at Maples with some people from Stanford’s development office, supplementing his time on the court with going to the gym and biking and hiking.

“Basketball is a new sport to me,” says Jennifer. “It was very humbling to learn. Now the hour goes by like that — it’s incredible.

“However, we’re sensitive to the fact that Vivecoach is serving everyone at a company. They don’t have to all play basketball. People can start by wearing a pedometer that measures their daily steps and drink more water. The challenges make it fun.”

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