The story of Foov Fitness is one of determination, passion, and innovation. It all began in 2008 when Meg, a fitness trainer, started putting Sylvie through her paces at Trufit. For five years, Meg's unique workout approach helped Sylvie to avoid injuries and excel in marathons, triathlons, and even a 40-mile run on her 40th birthday.
In 2011, Sylvie assisted Meg with a training session for adults with developmental disabilities. It was then that they saw a need for accessible physical activity that could improve people's quality of life. They brainstormed and researched ways to make Meg's expertise more widely available, and the idea of an exercise program for people with cognitive disabilities began to take shape.
Sylvie knew that people learn best when they have a goal in a realistic context, while Meg understood that keeping people motivated and engaged through fun and laughter was the key to consistency. The question was, how could they create a program that would get people with developmental delays to move more with the people who care for them?
A breakthrough moment came in July 2012, when a former marketing researcher suggested they simply find out what people liked. Sylvie was at a Cubs game with a home for the elderly owner, Rita Sanders, who revealed that her residents loved baseball. Later that summer, Sylvie visited Cooperstown and got the idea to create a workout themed around a day at the baseball park.
Meg watched a Cubs game with her trainer's eyes and documented all the movements happening at the game and in the stadium. Based on these movements, Sylvie and Meg created a workout that they tested with Meg's clients at Trufit. No bats, no bases, no sounds, no tickets, just imagination. And it worked! People got into it, laughed, and kept moving, clocking an impressive 2000 fitbit steps in this imaginary day at the ballpark.
In 2013, armed with a framework from the book "The Lean Startup," Sylvie and Meg sought to prove that the tablet could replace their role-playing and scripts. They turned to NogginLabs to build their MVP (minimum viable product), and by April 1st, they had an app to test with clients and fellow trainers. And with that, Foov Fitness was born.
The name "Foov" comes from combining "Fun" and "Move," and although it was out of Sylvie's comfort zone, they went with it. Foov Fitness continues to inspire and motivate people with cognitive disabilities to move more, stay healthy, and improve their quality of life through fun and engaging workouts.
What We Learned
Through Foov Fitness, we learned that Immersive worlds, purposeful movements, and structured storylines are the keys to engaging people with intellectual disabilities. By giving participants a role and a purpose for their movements, they were able to connect with the experience on a deeper level. The structured storyline provided a framework that was highly satisfying, with participants eagerly anticipating the next stage of the journey.
The project found that incorporating movements into a pretend world allowed participants to engage their imaginations and build relationships, trust, and confidence. While a structured storyline might be boring for some, it was confidence-building for those with developmental disabilities, who appreciated having their expectations met.
This innovative approach to movement and engagement could have many practical applications beyond the project's initial scope. It could be used for higher-level conditioning, job training, evaluations, or simply for building relationships. By integrating movement into a real-life context and story line, we can create immersive experiences that engage and empower people of all abilities.