According to WHO worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980. In 2008, more than 1,400 million adults were overweight: out of which 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese. 65% of the world's population live in countries where overweight and obesity kill more people than underweight. More than 40 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2010. At least 2.8 million adults die yearly as a result of being overweight or obese. According to WHO a BMI (Body Mass Index) greater or equal to 25 is overweight, and a BMI greater or equal to 30 is obesity.
WHO gives us scary data; nevertheless obesity is preventable but it requires a strong will.
The USA has the highest rates of obesity. In 2010 35.7% of adults and 17% of children were obese. Researchers for the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and RTI International estimated that in 2003 obesity-attributable medical expenditures reached $75,000 million. In nine years the ciphers have probably gone up.
In the UK, in 2009, an estimated 60.8% of adults and 31.3% of children were overweight. Out of which 22% of men and 24% of women were classified as obese.
Two out of three Finnish men are overweight, whilst every other woman is overweight. There are more overweight children than ever. In the past 20 years in Finland the sales of sweets has increased 66%, the sales of ice-cream 45% and that of soda pops 30%. Snacking has become more usual than eating proper meals in an orderly way, so without them realising people ingest more calories than they consume. What does this tell us? People ingest more energy than they consume.
OK. Even WHO says that there are ways to prevent and cure overweight: one is improving our eating habits; the other is exercising. Work nowadays is to very few something physical. Most of us just sit for hours in front of the computer or some other electronic device and then take a bus or a car home, where we sink into the sofa to stare at the telly all evening.
But, getting started is so hard, isn't it? If we haven't done any sports for ages, where do we start? If we try to go jogging, after three minutes we're in the verge of suffocation; and going to the gym and having to wear those tight fitness pants and tops is going to make us look so ridiculous. And we feel so lonely in our misery! Is there no darling friend to come to our aid?
What do you mean?
The darling friend! HeiaHeia!
Oh, goodness, is there something going on I do not know about?
Let me tell you, HeiaHeia is the answer to all of us who lack the will power to get a grip of ourselves to start moving that body. HeiaHeia is some sort of fitness Facebook in which we can keep track of and share everything sporty we do, from extreme adventure sports to weeding or just walking the dog, all levels and intensities are welcome. HeiaHeia is suitable for everybody independently of their fitness condition and seriousness in their sports activities. The service is free, though there is a paid option for wellness programs in companies. It is accessible to everyone; all you need is a Web browser in your computer or your phone.
So, if for example you go jogging 5 km, you write it down in your HeiaHeia profile and your friends will cheer you. Also the day you feel lazy, you might find the impulse to get off that sofa and get into your sports clothes and out of the house to walk or run or roller-skate or whatever you like best, thanks to your HeiaHeia friends' encouragement.
Not only can we encourage and cheer each other, but we can also make a fitness program for ourselves, which will help us exercise. HeiaHeia has actually partnered with fitness experts of a leading European fitness chain to offer an automated, personalized training program generator that creates just the right program based on our preferences and current fitness level.
In 2007 Finnish tech entrepreneur Jussi Räisänen was working in Singapore with his previous startup. His friend Olli Oksanen, who was working in London, asked him to run with him the Berlin Marathon. Both young men felt it would be more fun to train together, but they were far away from each other and there was no useful service in the Internet, which would overcome the physical distance that separated them. So they started thinking up one. In the process, their notion evolved: a social motivation tool could help people exercise more even if they are not marathon runners. They set up a company for prototyping the concept and in January 2010 they launched the product: HeiaHeia.
The name comes from a Scandinavian cheer often heard at sports events, and it perfectly communicates the fun and the social and supportive attitudes the founders wanted to build with the service.
Heaps of men (40%) and women (60%) between the ages of 13 and 80 in over 150 countries enjoy today the services of HeiaHeia. The service is available in nine languages. Scandinavia, the UK, Germany, Spain, the USA and Russia have the biggest user communities at the moment.
What I most like about HeiaHeia is how its spreads positive vibrations into the world. There are so many things giving nasty vibes that this sort of positive thing is just wonderful!
The mission of HeiaHeia is to improve the wellbeing of people by turning exercise into something fun and of an easy approach. The encouragement of our friends and family is very important for us when having to make choices in our lives. And this is what HeiaHeia provides sport-wise in a fun and individualistic way: everybody can decide how to exercise so that it will suit one like a glove. Some people have saved their lives with the help of HeiaHeia! And I am not exaggerating. There are some great stories, like the following one:
A successful Finnish sales manager in his fifties decided to make his dream come true, quit his job in a big company and started his own enterprise. Everything looked great, until one night he had a heart attack, which almost took his life. Lying in the hospital, he decided to change things, make the best out of this second chance he got and start a new life. The first thing was to lose looots of weight and lower his bad cholesterol. Exercise was the magic word, but our lucky hero lacked the will of power to do it regularly. There, HeiaHeia came to his aid. In seven months he lost 30 kg and dropped his bad cholesterol thanks to the cheers of his HeiaHeia friends. Today he is a happy, normalweight man who is living his dream every single day and has never since stopped exercising.
So, what used to be bad tasting medicine, like fish liver oil so healthy but so gross, has become pineapple: sweet and healthy!
The future looks good for HeiaHeia and for the people of the world. There is a worldwide trend of people wanting to take care of their health (and the overweight percentages WHO informs are pretty alarming), so the need for functional, flexible tools for the improvement of wellbeing is increasing. The true needs are not complex heart monitoring systems or the optimization of jogging time, but the little easy tricks that will motivate physically passive people to exercise. We need approachable, fun and casual tools to help us get out of the house and move that body!
At the same time, social media in the Internet is gaining importance and space in people's lives and in interpersonal communication at an amazing speed. Including a wellbeing-health tool in this system will certainly turn out a success. People are already so accustomed to using social media in their everyday life, that learning to use a fitness social media will be as easy as breathing. People feel comfortable with what they already know and like.
I think WHO should find out about HeiaHeia. I am positive they would love it and consider it a wonderful asset in the battle against overweight and obesity.