Laya healthcare has come up with a novel solution for those of us who are willing of spirit but weak of flesh when it comes to improving our health and fitness. A fully personalised programme designed at no extra cost to help us achieve our health and wellbeing goals at a pace and in a fashion tailored to suit our needs.
Like most people, this reporter marks the start of each new year by resolving to become fitter and healthier during the next 12 months but my determination to become a lean, mean fighting machine tends to dissipate at the first sign of temptation or the slightest bump in the road.
Exclusively for laya healthcare members, healthcoach promises to put an end to quickly broken resolutions like these, whenever we might make them. It gives people the tools to achieve long-term healthy change and hit their goals; whether that’s losing weight, getting fit, reducing stress, or improving their emotional wellbeing.
Even the most committed couch potato need not feel daunted by the process
The game-changing new benefit combines the expertise of qualified health and fitness professionals with the latest technology in the form of a specially designed smartphone app, and is unlike any other offering currently available in the market.
Healthcoach offers laya healthcare members access to a consultation with a qualified Healthcoach who designs a personalised health programme encompassing all aspects of their health including fitness, nutrition and mental wellbeing.
The programme kicks off with a questionnaire which establishes the current health status and goals of the individual. The online Insights questionnaire gives the Healthcoach a better understanding of the individual’s health and fitness levels and what they want to achieve. The 25 questions cover everything from current health to lifestyle, the demands placed on the individual by their everyday life, as well as their health goals.
Once you complete the online Insights questionnaire, it's time to book your consultation with a Healthcoach. All laya healthcare members can access an online self-assessment tool and get access to a personalised healthcoach programme. The majority of laya healthcare members can choose to access a face-to-face consultation with a Healthcoach at no additional cost. Those on entry-level schemes may have to pay a subsidised rate to access a face-to-face consultation so it's worth checking your cover in advance. Consultations are available in nine locations around the country and at times to suit just about everyone.
The good news about the consultation, particularly for this reporter, is that there is no minimum level of fitness required. Even the most committed couch potato need not feel daunted by the process which is delightfully non-judgemental and incredibly positive throughout.
The consultation begins with a chat where the coach explains the healthcoach programme and discusses the answers to the Insights questionnaire. This has the effect of putting you at your ease. It certainly did for me.
The Healthcoach explains that the goal is to help people get fitter and healthier, even by a small amount, and not to turn them into Olympic athletes overnight.
The sense of realism is pleasantly reassuring. The coach is only interested in what is achievable and doesn’t judge you by any benchmarks other than those which will be relevant to you.
The science kicks in at that point with the coach carrying out a number of quick and easy tests to assess your overall fitness. The five tests cover body composition, lung function analysis, blood pressure, blood sugar, and fitness analysis.
These might sound a bit daunting, but the process is actually quite comforting.
For example, the body composition test sees the coach measure your height and weight and use a special device to measure the proportions of fat and muscle in your body. This reporter’s body has definitely seen better days but the attitude of the health coach at the consultation can only be described as kindly.
My body mass index, the ratio of weight to height, is definitely on the wrong side of almost any bad line you’d care to mention but the Healthcoach was marvellously positive saying things like “it’s a bit high but we can do something about that”.
Lung function wasn’t great either, but the mood remained positive. Blood pressure was elevated too, but the emphasis was on how easy it would be to get it down to more normal levels. Blood sugar levels were surprisingly normal despite a good lunch not too long before.
The fitness assessment is a step test originally devised in Australia which involves the subject stepping up and down off a fairly high box for three minutes and having their pulse measured afterwards. Once again, the coach was reassuring in his assessment of what was in honesty a pretty dismal performance.
Throughout the different tests the results are being fed both wirelessly and manually into a computer programme which is assisting in the development of the personalised health programme.
While doing this the Healthcoach explains the background to the tests, the importance of each measure, and the need to look beyond physical fitness and consider mental and emotional wellbeing as well. You also learn how stress can be reduced and mental health enhanced by improved physical health.
Having completed all the tests, I was awaiting the worst – at the very least being sentenced to a month on bread and water with a few hours a day on a treadmill or some other instruments of torture in a gym.
I could hardly have been more wrong. I was asked what exercise I already did and what additional exercise I felt I might be able to do without too much inconvenience. We also discussed my diet – very poor – and how my nutrition could be improved, again without going to too much trouble. And then we talked about stress and mental wellbeing again.
The aim is to not to put people up on treadmills or send them to gyms if they are not comfortable with that
And that’s when the magic really kicked in. I downloaded the healthcoach app onto my smartphone, logged into it with details provided by laya healthcare and, hey presto, there was a health programme designed especially for me including the goals I had just agreed with the health coach.
The exercise component involved a few half-hour walks each week while nutritional advice would help to improve my diet. Nothing drastic, no crazed self-flagellation in gyms. It was explained to me that the aim is to not put people up on treadmills, or send them to gyms, if they are not comfortable with that. Rather, it is to set realistic goals and then come up with programmes to achieve them over specified period.
This is where the app comes in. It is no ordinary fitness app or tracker. It becomes your personal assistant and support during the programme.
Not only does it track your daily activity in terms of steps taken and exercises done, it helps you track your nutrition with an online food diary and a library of handy recipes designed by the laya healthcare nutrition team, and it keeps track of your progress towards your goals in terms of weight, height, BMI, blood pressure and so on.
As well as fitness and nutritional advice, the healthcoach app offers wellbeing blogs, podcasts and videos to help members achieve their mental wellbeing goals. These tools include personal action plans supported with expert content from clinical psychologists covering emotional wellbeing, stress and anxiety, amongst other topics.
The app continuously monitors progress, and motivates users with new challenges and healthy rewards from leading nationwide retailers including Lifestyle Sports, Eason and Deliveroo. Becoming fitter and healthier may be a reward in itself but there’s nothing like a little treat to keep you going.
The real beauty of the app is that it means healthcoach doesn’t stop after the first programme. The programme evolves with the user, setting new goals and providing motivation, mentoring and expertise to support the on-going health needs of laya healthcare members as they progress and set new health and fitness goals for themselves in further easy to manage eight-week programmes.
No more abandoned gym memberships or yo-yo dieting. No more haphazard, vague and easily broken resolutions to lose an unspecified amount of weight, get fitter, or “lead a healthier lifestyle”. All gone thanks to healthcoach which sets realistic targets and goals in a tailored programme designed to help you live a healthier, happier and longer life – and best of all, a healthcoach consultation comes at no additional cost to laya healthcare members.
If you're a laya healthcare member, you can book a face-to-face healthcoach consultation today in any of the nine healthcoach locations nationwide. Go to layahealthcare.ie/healthcoach
More than just physical fitness
Healthcoach also includes a strong focus on mental wellbeing.
Among the resources available through the app are the Be Here Now mindfulness course to help members tackle stress, anxiety, depression and mental exhaustion; the Stress Less course to help members recognise and manage the stress in their lives; Overcoming Anxiety which offers tips and strategies to better manage and deal with anxiety; and The Change Lab which helps people overcome barriers to change and create new and inspiring good habits.