Philips DirectLife Program

What It Is and How It Works

According to the company Philips DirectLife is a program and system designed to "get people to move more." It consists of an Activity Monitor that you wear, which measures, gathers and stores personal movement data which is then uploaded to an online system and also analyzed by live coaches. This system is an advancement over traditional and popular pedometers in the sense that it measures acceleration and motion, not just steps. The program and system is also integrates online coaching and peer/community support online.

PEERtrainer has been working with Philips to help launch this new product, and several groups of PEERtrainer members have been directly testing this product. We recently had a chance to interview one of the lead DirectLife coaches, Jen Dowdeswell, and ask her some questions about how the system works. This is the transcript of the interview. We will post the audio as well, and will be linked here when live.

Jackie Wicks: Hello, this is Jackie Wicks. I'm with PEERtrainer, and today I am talking to Jen Dowdeswell. She is a Philips DirectLife coach.

I know some of you have been familiar with this new product that we've been talking about and testing within PEERtrainer called Direct Life. It's manufactured by Philips, which is a well known global company. We wanted to bring in a coach, because obviously there's coaching available with the DirectLife device, and Jen's also the training manager. Actually, we were just chatting a bit. She's a personal trainer, has her degree in human kinetics; we call it kinesiology in the United States.

But, what I find most interesting is that it's great to have this device around your neck, or however you all choose to use it. Of course we'll go a little bit more into what this device is, because everybody's been asking. But, the most incredible part is that I've seen this in the community is actually getting a personal email from your coach and having someone there to really help you figure out some of your problems and help you troubleshoot.

When how many times do you sit there and say, "If only, I had somebody to just sit there and work this thing out and I didn't feel so alone?" And once you feel that you're not so alone, you really get hope and you really say, "OK, I can do this. I know I'm really busy, but I can increase my activity level."

So, I have Jen here today. Hi, Jen. It's so nice to obviously have you on the phone here with me today.

Jen Dowdeswell: Oh, thank you for having me, Jackie. It's great to be here.

Jackie: And I'm going to be asking her some questions. I know a lot of people have had some questions in the community, but before we go into that, I just wanted Jen to talk a little bit about the product.

We talked about how Philips actually has this really neat lab where they do all sorts of new technology things in health and fitness. But, I just wanted to talk again, because people have seen the device a little bit. I want to talk about what it actually is, and obviously, Jen, as a coach, is the best person to describe it.

How Does The Philips DirectLife System Work?

Jen: Yes, so it's a device, as you know. It's small, about a matchbox size. You can put it in your pocket or wear it around your neck, fit it to your belt. It tracks your movement. It's not a pedometer, in that what it does is, it has three accelerometers in it, and it can tell how quickly you're moving. So, it measures acceleration.

If you're sitting, it can tell that you're not moving. But, if you're walking, or running, or swimming or biking, it can tell a difference between the activities. Then we use algorithms that were designed by Philips to calculate the number of calories that relates to, per person. So, it's really individualized.

It takes into account your age, your gender, your height and your weight, and then this activity. You can plug it into the computer, and you see it in a graph of your activity, in the year view, 12-week view, which is a plan, or the month, the day, the week, the hour, the minute. So, it really gives you some very detailed information about your activity.

You can play with it, look at the activity yourself and get an idea of your own levels of activity, and start to notice patterns, where you're sitting all day or where you're very active on the weekend kind of thing. But then, you also have the coach, which is what my job is, and we're available to help people look at their activity, figure out ways to become more active, and also be a sounding board for people when they get stuck.

Why Did Philips Decide To Create This Product?

Jackie: What's interesting is, knowing that you have this research lab, where you can come up with any products you want to help people. I have to know, why was DirectLife created?

Jen: Well, Philips does an enormous amount of research. Based on other findings, 60 percent of the world's population doesn't move enough. People need to move more. Based on this, and then also with the technology we already had, we thought, "OK, let's design this device, which can help people become more healthy."

Jackie: And when you say "more healthy" is the goal to just increase your activity? Is there a percentage that you all have, in terms of assessing things? Is there a percentage where you say, "Great, you've increased it by X percentage and you're doing a great job;" or how do you do that? How do you assess that?

Jen: Yes, what we do is, we measure it based on the World Health Organization  level of healthy activity. So, walking 30 minutes per day, five times per week, is a healthy level of activity.

How The First Week Of The DirectLife Program Works

For somebody who enters the program, we measure their activity for the first seven days, and that's the assessment week. Then, if they aren't up to that healthy level, we build them up to that healthy level. But, even if they're at that healthy level, we still build them up to gradually increasing their activity.

Jackie: The number one reason I have seen ... and again, we have a million people a month coming to the PEERtrainer site, and we see what they are looking for. In terms of exercise, the number one thing I see is not that people don't want to exercise. It's that they start and then they lose their motivation. How does this device help with motivation?

I can tell you my own, personal experience, where you have activity and you start to see that graph, there's nothing better than seeing this visual representation of what you've done and then how you're improving. But, how...? Obviously, you've worked with so many people. What are they saying, in terms of how their motivation has changed, or how it's sustained with the device?

Jen: Yes, it's such a common thing, when someone starts activity, to come out of the gates really fast and then to drop off. We're so eager to make these changes and reach our goals. And sometimes, people set unrealistic goals for themselves, in terms of time line or what they want to achieve. So, what the DirectLife program does is it starts everything out really slowly.

In the first week, the increase in activity is so gradual that it's achievable. You're like, "Oh, wow. I walked a little bit farther today and I increased my activity." And then you feel good about yourself, and then you continue on. And so, because of the design, that it's so gradual, people feel success in that.

And also, the device has lights in it. And as you put it down flat on the table with the Philips logo facing up, it shows these lights in progression of how close you are to hitting your target for that day. So, no matter where you are, you can just put the device down and say, "Oh, my goodness. Its lunchtime and I only have one dot. I need more dots."

Jen: And so, people really feel that that helps them stay on track and also compare with other people. What it really does is increase awareness, because one day maybe you had to drive to work, and then you sat all day in meetings, and then you had to drive home, and then you're busier in the evening with visitors. Then you look at the end of the day and you say, "Oh, my goodness. I barely moved today."

Whereas before the unit program, people didn't notice that; once they became aware, then they recognize it, and then see how they can start making changes. You actually touched on a point of motivation and can I jump into that?

Jackie: Yes, please.

How Does DirectLife Help Sustain Motivtion?

Jen: Because I think that's such a huge part of it, because we have a thing that people start, and they're super. They start, right out of the gates, really strong and then they drop off. And then, often, people get so disappointed because they think, "Oh, I can't do it. I tried it before and I can't do it this time. I didn't do it before. I can never get this." Or, "I'm not an active person or this isn't for me."

Part of what DirectLife is, is it's about moving. It's not about picking up a sport. It's not about doing all these things that you're not used to doing. It's looking for things in your normal, everyday that you can change, if that's walking around the soccer field when your kids are playing soccer, instead of sitting in the car, all these little things.

What coaches do is help people reflect upon themselves, if we notice that someone's activity is dropping off, but they were really motivated, initially. They said, "I'm capable of achieving these goals and I'm really motivated to achieve these goals." But we notice their activity is dropping off, we can contact them and say, "Hey, what's going on?" And then help them to reflect on their experience, whether it's obstacles in the way, or something has changed in their life or they don't think they can do it.

Having someone to talk with by email really helps people get past that or learn more about themselves to then get past it the next time.

Jackie: The biggest thing I see, because what I've also seen, I know you see this. It's that you're so excited and motivated when you've finally made this goal to start working out that you can tend to burn yourself out, because you're actually working out too hard. It's almost like a baby, a one-year-old. Rather than taking one step and learning how to walk, they try and go run and they obviously fall flat on their face.

One thing I've really seen is that even in the initial things with DirectLife, there is no prescribed workout for an hour and a half right now, so you can get the abs that you love. It's actually fitting within your own life.

That is the one thing that we've seen, over and over and over, is when you don't take this magic bullet mentality, where you say, "OK, that's going to be the thing that gets me thin." It's when you realize that you're the magic bullet and the things that you incorporate in your own lifestyle, to develop new, healthy habits, that's what really can sustain you for the long term.

This is what I really treasure. Really, when I say this about this particular thing, because I am so used to people introducing me to products that are six weeks to 30... it's almost 30 days to 30-pound weight loss. And what this does is, it more takes that DirectLife, I guess, the lifestyle approach.

Can you tell me a little bit about that? Where you've seen people pick this up and say, "I finally don't feel guilty anymore." Have you ever heard that, that whole guilt thing? Like, "Why am I not at the gym?" And then it almost becomes this self-fulfilling thing, where you're not at the gym, you feel guilty and then you give up all together.

Avoiding The Guilt Trap....

Jen: Oh, that's definitely a common pattern that we've really try to help people recognize before they even get going. So, we ask people. "What are your goals and how do you plan to get there? How do you plan on increasing your activity?"

And supporting them in the idea that, "Yes, the gym is great", and if you have a treadmill at home and you like doing that, that's great. But, it doesn't have to be a gym. It can be taking the stairs at work, whatever. It can be anything.

Jackie: It gives you the freedom to be excited about your activity, versus guilty about what you haven't done. So, you know what? I'm actually going to wrap up part one of this, and we'll have Jen back, because I know that we didn't even get to the question part. So, Jen, thank you.

Jen: Yes, my pleasure. I look forward to next time.

Part Two Of The Interview

Jackie Wicks: Hi, this is Jackie Wicks of PEERtrainer and I'm here with Jen Dowdeswell. She's actually the training manager and a direct life coach for the Direct Life device. We're excited because what we're talking about today is what happens right after you get this little device in your hands and what to expect in the first month of the program. So, Jen, welcome. Great to have you here.

What Happens When You Start The DirectLife Program

Jen Dowdeswell: Thank you. I'm happy to talk about this.

Jackie: I know. I have to say it's sitting in my hand, and it's a beautifully designed box, by the way. I guess the first thing I want to ask is I have a Mac and what if I had a PC? I'm always wondering is this going to work with my Mac? Is there a specific computer I need to have or is it compatible across platforms?

Jen: If you've got a computer you're good to go. It's good for both, or all platforms.

Jackie: Well that's easy. It sounds just like when you plug in your iPod and you can just go. Now, I plug it into my computer and what happens then? I've read that it's a seven day trial period. Can you tell me a little bit about what happens over those seven days?

Jen: Yes. It's called the assessment. Before you start the assessment you put in information into your Direct Life Website, which is basically your Direct Life page. You put in your age, your height, your weight, your gender. It's all private information that will only be seen by your coach and you.

Your Information Is Kept Private On The DirectLife System

The system uses this information to figure out how many calories you're burning throughout the day. For the seven days you will need to dock your device so you can charge the battery, but you won't see any information. The reason for that is because we want you to just be normal.

People's tendency is to start increasing their activity because they want to get ahead and get started, but we want a very accurate picture of what are you like in a normal week. How active are you? That's why you can't see data those days, but you can dock and it'll say how many days left you have in your assessment.

When you've done the assessment when you dock you get your results. The results are based on, like I said, your height, your age, your gender, your weight, and then your activity. The thing to know about DirectLife is that it measures all day. As long as you're wearing it all day it measures all day, so it can tell when you're sitting, it can tell when you're walking.

I think this is what surprises people the most because they think OK well I go to the gym in the morning, so I get my good workout in, but if they're sedentary, sedentary being sitting for three hours or more at a time, if they're sedentary at other times during the day that does affect their activity level. That's why some people are surprised at the end of it when they get their assessment results because they think oh I thought I was more active than it shows.

Jackie: I was surprised in my first week. I'm glad you explained that. What you're saying is it's not just about your workout, you're taking in the whole activity of the 24 hours into account?

Jen: Of your waking hours, so if you're awake for 24 then yes. As long as you're awake and wearing it.

Jackie: So what happens? Obviously you get evaluated on the level, one to ten?

Jen: One to six.

Jackie: What is a level one look like versus really the highest? What are you doing if you're at a level six? What's your typical activity level?

Jen: If you're a level six you're pretty active most of the day, so very often we see people who have active jobs who also do specific sporting activities. They might go for a run in the morning and they might have a job where they're up and down and moving around quite a bit all day and then they might bike to and from work.

That kind of thing. They're the extreme, super active people you can't sit down for dinner with. At the other end, most classic, is someone who works in an area very far away from where they live, so they have to get up and commute for a long time to get to work and then they work a sedentary job and then have to drive home.

This isn't always the case. Often it's also people who work from home who love their work and end up sitting at home and working all day. It really varies the further down you get to level one what people are doing and what they're not doing. The thing about DirectLife is because it does level your activity throughout the whole day, so it's your baseline.

That's the important thing to remember. It doesn't matter what level you're in because the goal is to increase your activity. Because it measures your whole day, you will notice that if you go for a walk at lunch time it does affect that activity and it does help you increase your overall activity throughout the week.

Jackie: It's interesting because there are different settings for the device. One of the comments in our community was I was told by my Direct Life coach that how I'm wearing the monitor and how I've set it on the settings was inconsistent. I set necklace as my online wearing position, but this is only accurate when I'm wearing the monitor on the outside of my clothes.

She said don't make the same mistake I've made. If you're wearing it underneath your clothes make sure you select the chest position or your activity will be under reported. Obviously that was sometimes what I was doing as well, I was setting necklace and I did an inside and I didn't change it to chest. Can you elaborate a little more on the settings?

The Proper Way To Wear Your DirectLife Activity Monitor

Jen: Yes, it is pretty important to set it correctly, because based on the amount of movement Philips uses algorithms to calculate that to translate it to a certain number of calories. Just for an image here if you imagine it on the necklace position, outside your clothes.

You could be moving around quite a bit, verse if it was in the chest position under your clothes. And you're moving around, it would not actually be moving around so much. It's that difference in movement into account when it translates it into calories. If you are going to be wearing in your pocket, you need to be consistent with wearing it in your pocket.

Jackie: Could that actually affect the number on the assessment scale?

Jen: Yes, it can definitely affect the number on the assessment skill.

Jackie: Oh, interesting...

Jen: Also picking it and being consistent with what you wear during the assessment weeks is also important, just so that we get a consistent read of the activity from day to day as well.

What Happens After The First Seven Days?

Jackie: After the first seven days then you have what you would call a baseline and be able to asses. Somebody just said after the first seven days, I don't want to let the day end and go to sleep without being sure I have meet my target goal for the day. The monitor feels like a combination of big brother and a game of trying to beat the monitor. Which I thought...

Jen: That's fantastic.

Jackie: What happens after? What happens at the end of the seven days? What can I expect? Do I get an email from my... Actually I know, But I'm asking this as for everybody listening.

Jen: Yes, at the end of your assessment you will get an email. That tells you how you did, and at also sends you to your DirectLife Website so you can actually see your data there. And look at it all online. You are given a plan and the plan is 12 weeks long and each week the target gradually increases.

So it stats off with the average of your assessment week, and then you'll see that every week it gradually increase to the end of 12 weeks. In that time the coach can change those targets for the person at anytime. Then the person in the program has three chances to play with the targets and styles. In terms of coaching, everybody in the program has access to their own coach.

And anybody can contact their coach at any time as much as they like. Because we're here to help people figure out how to use the program, and how to really understand how to increase their activity and help them with motivation and help them with looking at different obstacles they may have. But the coach will also contact people, depending on looking at their activity and just introduce themselves and help them figure out how to make the most out of the program.

Like An Online Personal Trainer?

Jackie: So it's almost like the coach is my personal trainer, but because they can monitor exactly what I'm doing through this device as if they were in the gym with me. Or walking around all day with me, because you have... Oh, how interesting...And so... Can I... I just wanted to know can the participants contact their coach anytime they want? How does that work, is there a limit?

Jen: No, there's no limit. The coaches are there to really support people. Some individuals like to initially find out as much as they can about the program and contact their coach a lot. And once they understand it and how they can go about it then the communication drops down a lot.

That You Use As Much Or As Little As You Like....

Some people don't really want to use the coach so much, because they feel like they're fine on their own and others like being checked in on. Even if once every two weeks, just check in on me and see how I'm doing. The coaches also do notice if peoples activities drops off.

Or there's some discrepancy in their activities, like they have a huge peak for a couple of weeks and its like, Oh why is this happening.

Is this person going out to strong do they need to... It's counterintuitive to be saying to someone, are you trying to hard right now. But to help them avoid the pit fall later of having gone out to hard and then decreasing their activity even more so, after that.

How Does DirectLife Help You STAY Motivated?

Jackie: So, after the week assessment period, then I have a week. The participant has a baseline, and then they understand where their working from how many people get more motivated to be more active after the second week? You know as a coach you tend to see people go up by week three because they've gotten so excited about their first improvement?

Jen: Very interesting question. I think it's important to recognize and remember we're all human, we're all different. And some people feel so motivated outside...Once they get their assessment results. And others feel like "Oh wow OK, now I have to really get started."

It really comes down to behavioral change, is this person ready to make changes? And how do they feel about themselves of making these changes. So, to give you a quick answer on that it is different for everybody.

Jackie: OK, got it. All right to I just wanted to say. Because this is obliviously another community comment, just to wrap this up. Someone said in this first assessment period the first month, "I did a lot of writing. Writing equals my bum in the chair, so there's a dip in my percentage.

I got up, I used my Wii, while watching a movie and I got my percentage back up to be a par with the games I've had so far. This is a very motivating tool and I really dig it. So, I'm just really excited to see as..."

This is the first month assessment period and we'll follow up with the second month and ask you different questions. Because I'm sure different struggles and challenges come up and ways that you can really use the monitor and use the coaching to help improve your fitness levels. So Thanks Jen...

: Thank you.
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