Strava for Health Optimization

The right “Proof of Health” could be what’s missing to push more people to be healthy



It all started with this tweet.



Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we could promote healthy behaviors and a healthy lifestyle. If we managed to create a product that people love using and where using it means engaging in a healthy life, it would be a big win. As an exploration of the landscape, I thought there was a lot to learn from the extremes: the health enthusiasts and the people who pay no attention to their health.


Health Enthusiasts

The behavior of health enthusiasts is very interesting because their health is a system, and the ultimate goal is to optimize the system. They will try new things, think about their health, it’s a top priority. They talk about health with their friends, they’re always on the hunt for an area where they can improve. They’re playing a game where their health is the playground, and winning at this game means both feeling great and feeling you’re doing everything you could for your health.


The only limiting factor for this group is that there is no place dedicated to their passion. There are some Subreddits, but it lacks a community behind the movement. There’s only so far you can go by only sharing your experiences on Twitter and with people around you (they might also get annoyed if they’re not as passionate as you are 😅.)


The second problem that happens is that, after using a health tool for a little while, once the early enthusiasm is gone, there is nothing that makes all the health activities stick together. Let’s say you start to monitor your heart rate. After tracking these metrics for some time, you will know your values and potentially even improve them. But it’s hard to see how this habit could stick with you for your whole life, and not be just a gadget for a few months.


People With no Interest in their Health

Now, let’s look at the people who pay little to no interest in their health. A lot of different people fall into this group, but they share one thing in common: they don’t see the point of all these efforts, and it’s unclear to them what would be the benefits of this constraining lifestyle.


The First “Aha Moment”

I recently had a discussion with Robert Miller about this topic, and he shared with me his experience of getting an Oura Ring a few months ago. At first, it was to track potential early signs of COVID-19 infection, but after a little while, he started to understand how beneficial health tracking and health optimization could be. This “aha moment” is crucial in the health optimization journey, and improving the health and life of people at scale will require creating more of these “aha moments.”


I believe a lot more people would embark on the health journey if they had the first moment like this where they understand that their body is a complex system with inputs and outputs, and if they learn how to make it function better, they’ll be the big winner.

So how can we make this happen?


Shifting From “Health as a Burden” to “Health as a Sport”

I believe the solution to make a lot of people invested in their health over the long term is to switch from health as a burden to health as a sport.


Only an activity with a positive perception from the community can infuse the right amount of passion and engagement from a big enough pool of people. We can already see the first sign of this happening with the early adopters of this lifestyle (the High-Performance Lifestyle by Joe Vennare is a good description of it). Still, it will need a clear quantification and definition to expand outside of the world of health enthusiasts.


I found the idea of Strava very promising because its status game reinforces good behavior (physical exercise). Could we apply the same principle to health in general? Is it possible to create a “Strava for Health”?


As Julian Lehr described is his excellent piece “Proof of X”:

What’s great about Strava is that it reinforces a behavior that’s actually good for you: While the status game that initially got you into the app might be zero sum, the actual physical exercise you have to put in to compete has a very positive, compounding effect.

The first step is to create a meaningful “proof of health.” Strava works because it leverages the basic human need for signaling. In our case, the users will want to signal their good health.


Health is harder to measure than physical exercise because there’s no clear definition of it. Let’s see how we could still create a good indicator.


The idea is to create a health score based on multiple verticals that people can track and improve on.


For example, these verticals could include:

  • Sleep

  • Nutrition

  • Mental health

  • Physical activity

  • Heart monitoring

  • Blood testing

In each of these verticals, we can determine what’s optimal depending on your sex and age, and then divide the range of values from 1/10 (bad) to 10/10 (best).


In a second step, we can create a global health score composed of the scores on each vertical.


The Benefits of This Approach Are Far-Reaching

Having a dedicated place to share health-optimization related content will build and grow a community of health evangelization. If we want to push the boundaries of what’s possible regarding healthspan and lifespan extension, we will need a strong community advocating for more efforts in that direction. Building this community around what’s currently available for healthspan optimization can be a good first step.


Right now, we’re still in the awareness phase of the health optimization movement. When people realize how bad most of the “normal life” habits are for their sleep, health, and well-being in general, it can be unsettling, because there is no clear alternative. These alternative lifestyles will be created in the years to come, with more and more people wanting to trade health-unfriendly activities for health-friendly ones.


A Strava for Health will promote the right behaviors. Some people are already very motivated when it comes to their health, but most of us could use some extra motivation. Seeing friends and other people share their health journey will contribute to placing health at the center of people’s real and digital lives, and it will promote activities aligned with the health outcomes people from the community are seeking.


The other benefit is on the learning vertical. It’s very hard to find the right content to learn about your health. Having a community of people interested in those questions in one place creates a huge opportunity for providing health-related learning materials. Right now, if you’re not a doctor, society considers that you don’t need to learn about health. With the growing interest of people in their health, this will have to change. From nutrition to sleep, there’s no reason not to learn the basics and apply them in your life.


What Do You Think?

Do you agree that a Strava for health could be the solution to push more people to be healthy in the long-term? What other ideas do you have to solve this problem?


Let me know in the comments!


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© Mehdi Yacoubi, 2020 | The way you do anything is the way you do everything