Nearly half of U.S. adults fail to get enough physical activity.1 It is costing us in terms of dollars and lives: 5 million deaths worldwide per year due to diseases like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes could be prevented just by increasing physical activity.2 Understanding and developing solutions to motivate individuals to change their behavior, like becoming more physically active, is a major challenge.

Smartphones and wearable devices have the potential to address this challenge. They collect vast amounts of data about physical activity and health and enable near-continuous interactions with users to motivate healthy behaviors. However, existing health apps—which are largely uninformed by advances in behavioral psychology and human-computer interaction theory—have had limited success.

Independent efforts from diverse disciplines have successfully motivated behavior change on a small scale using approaches such as narratives, mindsets, behavior-change theory, and subtle interventions. Large-scale data mining and biomechanics knowledge can also bring new insights into motivating physical activity.

We will bring together these diverse perspectives to produce a powerful, personalized motivational engine using smartphones and wearable sensors to increase physical activity and improve health at low cost on a global scale.

Learn more about our project:

This project is funded by the Stanford Catalyst for Collaborative Solutions. This is a new initiative with a mission to create an open space to explore uncommon interdisciplinary solutions to our world’s most pressing problems and to become an internationally recognized model of a purposeful, high-impact, and interdisciplinary research ecosystem.

1Clarke, T., et al., National Center for Health Statistics (2017). 2Lee, I.M., et al. Lancet 380, 219-229 (2012).