Irish Life: Men on the MyLife challenge
We asked two men at different stages of life to log on to the MyLife fitness app from Irish Life and discover their Health Scores
Jonathan Williams, left, saw his Health Score rise to 716 over the course of the trial while Patrick Keogh, right, saw his Health Score rise from 520 to 650.
It’s almost impossible not to know how many steps we take each day – even if you don’t have a fitness wearable, our phone collects this data regardless. Sleep apps will monitor sleep patterns, and the calorie content of pretty much everything is available online.
Despite having all this health data at our fingertips, it can be hard to accurately gauge our overall wellbeing. That’s where the MyLife Health Score comes in. A central function at the heart of the MyLife fitness app from Irish Life, your Health Score is a single metric that incorporates information about your body, mind and lifestyle to give a holistic overview of where you are with your health.
The Health Score is a universal health measure that uses a mathematical process called equalisation for age and sex. Ultimately, this means it puts us all on a level playing field; your Health Score can be directly compared with that of someone older or younger, and men can compare themselves to women.
Entering your age, height, weight and gender will give you an initial Health Score between 1 and 1,000; the more health data you provide over time, the more accurate your Health Score will become. Inputting your gender, age, height, weight, waist circumference, blood pressure and blood values as well as several other metrics account for 40 per cent of the value of the Health Score.
A further 45 per cent is related to your lifestyle; by tracking your exercise, nutrition, stress and sleep, your Health Score will increase or decrease accordingly.
The final 15 per cent is linked to mental wellbeing, as the quality of life questions help to determine how your emotional wellbeing impacts your overall health.
Tracking your Health Score over time gives you a good indication of whether your overall health is improving – or disimproving, as the case may be.
Here, we ask two men in the 40-plus and 20-plus age range to try the app to discover their own Health Score.
What was your ultimate goal in using the MyLife app?
Overall health and fitness. With my job I spend a lot of time away from home, living in hotels and running through airports. I’m also mindful of my age.
What aspects of your lifestyle were you most seeking to address – fitness, nutrition, sleep or stress? One of my big challenges is sleep as I travel so much, getting up early and then staying up late when I am away.
What aspects of the app did you like the most? I liked how I could select different things to focus on – I chose my step count, which I am sure a lot of people do, but I also looked at my water intake, as well as fish, salads and fruit.
Did the Health Score motivate you? I started out with a number that I thought was pretty good, 681. Now I am at 716, which I did find motivating but also a little frustrating as sometimes my Health Score would also go down and I couldn’t understand why. Now I am beginning to learn more about how I can avoid that.
Did you like the online Coach? Were you honest with it? The best word to describe it was that it was encouraging rather than being a boot camp. It also really helped with my diet; through the advice I learned I was way overeating nuts, for example. I knew nuts were good for you, so I was eating them every day and from the Coach I learned my intake was way beyond what it should be. In the back of my head I probably did know that, but it made that thought a conscious reality.
What sets this app apart from other fitness apps? It makes you look at yourself and be very honest as it’s your private app. There is no one else there looking at it, you are just sharing your information with yourself and your own coach.
How do you feel after using the app for several weeks – will you keep using it? It has tuned out some unnecessary habits – nuts are a good example. I will keep using the app at least until I realise I am staying at a high enough Health Score. I am moving on from some of my challenges such as eating more fish, fruit and salads, to address other issues such as my sleep.
What was your ultimate goal in using the MyLife app?
I wanted to become more active. I cycle to and from work each day but I have a desk job and so I’m seated for pretty much eight hours each day – I needed something that would motivate me to move more during these hours. I tend to grab things that are quick to eat and these are often the least healthy options, like pre-packaged foods or rolls.
What aspects of your lifestyle were you most seeking to address – fitness, nutrition, sleep or stress? All of those. I thought I was pretty active and healthy. One of the things that shocked me was the impact my smoking history had on my Health Score. I smoked a few years ago for four years and when I inputted that into the app, the score went down quite visibly, by about 70 points. It made me realise the long-term implications of having smoked and how I need to work hard to stay as healthy as possible. It really opened my eyes.
What aspects of the app did you like the most? It made me realise how little things like taking the stairs could really improve my movement and step count. It also really made me focus on things like my coffee intake - I realised I was drinking far too much. One of my app goals was to make sure I didn’t eat fried food for two weeks and that really worked in terms of making me eat healthier. I now bring my lunch to work most days as I realise my choices weren’t great.
Did the Health Score motivate you? Definitely. I found myself looking at my score all the time and wondering why it was going up and down – it made me so aware of my mental wellbeing as well. I connected with some of my colleagues in work and if I saw my score was lower than theirs it gave me a kick and made me wonder why.
Did you like the online Coach? Were you honest with it? The great thing about the Coach was the educational aspect. I really liked the little reminders I would get during the day and all the health tips it offered, especially from a nutritional point of view. It was great to get a little nudge telling me to move more or asking how much coffee I had consumed. I was really honest – I felt there was no point lying as I would just be doing myself an injustice.
What sets this app apart from other fitness apps? I have a Fitbit but I loved how this app bundled fitness tracking and achieving goals into one, and I especially loved the Coach function. I felt like it was the whole package I needed.
How do you feel after using the app for several weeks – will you keep using it? My Health Score went up from 520 to 650 in the couple of weeks I was using it. I also lost 1.5kg during this time, so I know for a fact it worked. I am really happy with that and want to keep using it.