x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

App helps your lifestyle aims become a pledge

App will help people commit to better quality of life using support gained through social media.

Ian Houghton, the owner of Scandinavian Health and Performance, who has created an app called iCommit.
Ian Houghton, the owner of Scandinavian Health and Performance, who has created an app called iCommit.

DUBAI // A therapist and personal trainer has created an app to help people commit to a better quality of life.

Ian Houghton, owner of Scandinavian Health and Performance, has designed iCommit, which is now available from the iTunes store.

The free app helps people set targets such as eating more healthily, spending more time with family, or aiming for promotion at work.

The idea stemmed from a need to try to make clients more accountable for their own lives.

Initially, the app was aimed at personal trainers but the concept developed into something individuals could use to set lifestyle goals.

The social media element allows people to seek accountability or support.

"It started when I was working on a plan for a client in Norway and I needed to know if he was following his diet or not," Mr Houghton, a Norwegian, said. "I knew something like this would have to be on a mobile device to make it as convenient as possible for people to check."

He has been looking at ways to apply it to the corporate market, for example allowing human resources departments to arrange different in-house competitions or challenges, report systems and motivate employees.

Even gyms can set up internal communities to help encourage competition or act as a support network for members.

Mr Houghton specialises in naprapathy - a mix of chiropractic care and physiotherapy. He said his app could also be useful for doctors, who could use it to remind patients to take medication or get exercise.

Belen Settembri, a life coach, praised the app. She said most of her clients needed a structured approach to achieve their goals.

"For some people, this app could be very useful as a structure. Many already set appointments on their calendars. This would go a step forward on that. Also, today, people do everything with their iPhones and they have the advantage to sync with their other devices," she said.

Coaches could also set up their own commitments for clients.

"A lot of the time you or your client don't know if they're following a plan that is meeting their goals," Mr Houghton said.

Mrs Settembri said her clients used various items, such as a necklace or bracelet, to remind them of their commitments, or use phone alerts or Post-it notes.

"Having said that, without real will, there is no structure nor app that helps people to commit," she said. "As a coach, I work with my clients not setting a list of to-do as we all have enough of these but on answering the questions behind their wishes.

"I also believe that once we commit to something, it is good to involve other people, and the app has this feature. You can invite other people and also create a group.

"It is like going to a gym or arranging to run in the morning with a friend. It is not only about you any more, and it works"

Dr Justin Thomas, a psychologist and lecturer at Zayed University who is also a columnist for The National, agreed.

"Going public with your commitments is a great way to garner support from loved ones," he said. "Psychologists usually encourage clients to set goals that are specific and time-based and hard to fail.

"So rather than 'spend more time with daughter', we would suggest something like 'spend 15 minutes three times per week reading stories with my daughter' - more specific and measurable.

"If that's how iCommit works, then it sounds like a great little app to help people stay committed and connected to the things that really matter to them."

mswan@thenational.ae