Steven Vos is a professor in the department of industrial design at the TU Eindhoven, but also main researchers at the school of sport studies, Fonteys university of applied sciences. His main focus is design of products that improve performance and motivation for sports with the individual in mind.
When asked about the options in accessories and apps already out there, he said that there is no perfect one out there. When picking a product it is most important that you pick something that fits your purpose. As an example we talked about running apps. Strava would be a good app for someone who is competitive, because you can compare yourself to others in the app. But at the same time this could be harmful for someone who is less active, for you will be confronted with performances of others when you should focus on your own. That is why you should always look at what you need and want according to Vos. He also mentioned that for running apps there is a tool to help you pick an app that suits you: http://beslistool.kenniscentrumsportenbewegen.nl/.
Vos mentioned that there is a pitfall with apps and smart devices. Because it is important that the information given to the users is useful to the users. Most people don’t want/need high end information or are unable to understand it. More options often make it more difficult for people to reach their goals. Because not all people can effectively use all of the data given by apps, it is important to create apps that look at what people need and want to achieve and then provide with the necessary information to achieve that.
Vos also has been busy with making one of these developments of his own. He and his colleagues have researched what motivates people to go exercise and whether they could make a product that helps with the motivation. They found that once someone changes into their workout clothing, there is a very big chance that that person will actually go exercise. One of the products that followed was a coat hanger. This coat hanger will drop the clothes it holds when the clothes aren’t used for a longer time. When people pick up their clothes, they are already one step closer to starting with exercises.
But Vos did not just look into movement, he also looked into nutrition. His research was not focussed on athletes, but on office environments. According to Vos, there are two sides in listing what nutrition someone consumes. The first side is the classical side. An example of this are the food diaries. Although it can be annoying to note everything you eat and drink, seeing the pattern of nutrition is needed to give advice. Thereby, while doing this, you have probably already started with self-reflection. The other side in listing nutrition are the more futuristic options. One example is a lunch box that registers when and where it is opened. This can then give insights into bad eating habits like eating at the desk or while in meetings, meaning you do not take breaks for lunch. These futuristic products could help with self-reflection on your eating habits, and possibly help improvement.
Looking at both nutrition and movement, there are similarities in approach. Because for both it can be difficult to know what is healthy and good for you. Nowadays it is easy to say: you have to eat this much or you have to take this many steps, because it works for most people. But that doesn’t work, people should be explained how to achieve their own goals. And according to Vos they should also be allowed to have some unhealthy behavior. Have your hamburger and beer, as long as you can find a balance that suits you. Although basing your own schedule on the average doesn’t work, it is necessary for apps and devices to group people. For it is impossible to give all people individual solutions. But when profiling it is important to filter people into a group in which they really recognize themselves.
At last, we asked Vos about whether he has tips for others and whether he implements these tips himself. He talked about how he is the type to register everything. Although this is not always intrinsic motivation, it does help him to make 20.000 steps a day. Something he has been doing for 12 months now. Vos immediately admits that this goal is really ambitious. 20.000 steps, or even the more common although not really scientific based 10.000 steps will discourage a lot of people. It is not important to make this specific goal. When setting goals or getting advice, don’t take over what professionals are doing, their world and daily life is completely different. It is more important to set a goal that is realistic and fits into your life. And when trying to reach these goals intrinsic motivation is the strongest driver, but not everyone or everything can give you this motivation.