Shaping Fitness Culture at Remote Companies – The Discourse #26

A thought exercise into building a product to solve these problems

Today’s edition of The Discourse is a thought exercise — to think through how to build a product to improve err, exercise levels at companies, especially remotely.

I know I haven’t been regular with exercise since gyms shut, which got me wondering how a product would enable such a culture.

Before we start, I wanted to inform you that I’ve added a new section at the end of the newsletter about my recommendations for the week. So don’t forget to check that out!

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Alright, Let’s dive in!

The Why

Why even think of building a product for this?

First, let’s look at the problem. Data from Fitbit suggests that there’s been a 7-38% decline in physical activity globally since the start of the pandemic, particularly in high-intensity activity. This makes sense because gyms and outdoor activities have been largely closed. This lack of maintaining health can cause burnout.

But how important is the community factor for exercising? We all know that if we’re in a gym — we will exercise because everyone else is. So our aim, in that case, is to just get to the gym.

And why is it important to bring this to companies?

Exercise is not only good for physical health but also for group bonding. According to the book, 'Joy of Movement' by Kelly McGonigal, there is a strong correlation between exercising in a group and bonding with them.

Mutual cooperation activates brain regions linked to reward, releasing a feel-good chemical cocktail of dopamine, endorphins, and endocannabinoids. Call it a cooperation high: It feels good to work with others toward a shared goal.

So, it’s good for the employee, company, and coworkers.

Goal of the Product

Our goal is to increase employee health and fitness. 

But for it to be financially viable for companies to pay for such a product, they will need to see a direct benefit. We know through research that better physical and mental health can improve motivation, productivity, teamwork; and decrease attrition and health expenses.

These reasons will make it easier to justify for the company as an expense.

Now, the success of this initiative will depend on the company’s culture, morale, and people. Something independent of the product. But it makes sense to keep this in mind when selecting early customers. 


Any company that participates in this program would want to ensure it is done with less overhead and limited additional work.

Some of the other constraints and challenges include:

  • Data privacy

  • Integration with Apps and HRIS

  • Is it forced participation?

  • Employees trying to game the system

  • Employees thinking about if this will affect their appraisal

  • Will this cause unnecessary competition in the team?

  • How do you normalize challenges across different types of exercise like yoga, running, and strength training?

Riskiest Assumption Test

The first thing that needs to be tested is whether this product will be adopted. No company will pay if the product isn't adopted. And then, test the willingness to pay for such a product.

Success Criteria

In the goal we mentioned above, some of these are easier to directly measure, like the decrease in attrition and health expenses. But for the others, we will need proxies.

Let’s look at proxies for motivation:

  • Reduced unplanned leaves

  • Employee survey

How do you measure Productivity?

  • OKRs

  • Appraisal

  • Metrics

  • Revenue

  • Market value

How do you measure Teamwork?

  • Employee survey

  • Increased team productivity


  • Acquisition - Users downloaded / registered

  • Activation - users created profile / % of employees created profile

  • Engagement - Number of workouts completed per employee per week

  • Retention - WAU / CRR

  • Monetization - MRR, MRR growth rate %

It might be difficult to establish causation between the participation and success criteria because of the presence of a myriad of confounding factors. But a correlation between the two can still be established.

Target Market and GTM

Select the target market that can have the highest benefit to using such a product. It makes sense to first test the idea at companies with highly paid knowledge workers with high attrition costs.

Go-to-market strategy will depend on the type of companies that you are targeting. Pete Kazanzy wrote an insightful guest post on Lenny’s newsletter on the topic of layering sales onto a bottom-up self-serve product.

For this product, it would make sense to ride the coattails of a distribution platform like Slack or Microsoft Teams to create a blended bottom-up approach with layered sales to close deals.


Let’s talk about two jobs-to-be-done for the sake of this thought experiment.

WHEN I want employees of the company to improve their physical health 

THEN I should be able to set up common challenges and shared goals 

SO I CAN get people to participate 

WHEN I am exercising as part of a company fitness challenge 

THEN I want to share the results with others

SO I CAN be part of the team and inspire others


Find the simplest features that will test the riskiest assumption — even if it’s manual, to begin with. For example, a person triggering emails or WhatsApp/Slack messages, rather than a bot for collecting the data from users. Do things that don't scale.

With this approach, you can validate the hypothesis at a lower cost.

And once this assumption has been tested, you can build advanced features that would need to be prioritized.


The platform would have challenges per day, week, and month. 

These could be number of steps, pushups, calories burnt, etc.

Employees can be prompted to send screenshots of their fitness device or smartphone if it can be recorded. Or self-reported if it can’t. 

Social aspects

Cheer each other on

Peloton’s success is rooted in its community building. The platform could enable others to cheer each other through messages or videos. This thought is also supported by anecdotes in the Joy of Movement. 

We had that moment of absolute connection, with gestures to indicate we were cheering each other on. I felt grateful. Grateful for him and his ability to show up for himself, and grateful for the human capacity to connect.” This feeling lingers after class ends. “I feel more brave out in public, to make eye contact and engage people more,” she told me.

Team, City, Company-wide goals

The sense of achieving a shared goal in physical activity can help with teamwork in other aspects of the company. 


This kind of program can be done asynchronously, but it works better if it's synchronous. 

When the instructor tells participants to ride to the beat of the music, Weiss knows that riders all over the world are cycling at the exact same cadence. This part of the ride reminds her of the feeling she gets in a flow yoga class when everyone is moving and breathing in unison. 


First set it up as self-reporting through Slack, WhatsApp, Surveys, and Emails.

Future Features:

  • Google Fit / Apple Health to sync steps and calories burnt

  • Follow-along videos on YouTube

  • Slack/Microsoft Teams integration

  • Points, badges, and leaderboards

  • Web app to include all these features

The key for this kind of product is to have a lot of conversations with early adopters to figure out what works. The end result of exercise linked to all positive factors is already established through research. You have to focus on identifying ways to drive adoption.

There are a few apps on the Slack marketplace that are solving this problem like Count It and Health Hero. But there is space for more players to participate in the game.

Further Reading:

  1. Joy of Movement by Kelly McGonigal 

📘 Read of the week: Mapping the Creator Economy by Hugo Amsellem. Hugo takes us through the entire journey of creating content, growing your presence, owning your audience,  monetizing online and offline, and managing your business.

📢 Listen of the week: Cortex podcast — State of the Apps 2021 by CGP Grey and Myke Hurley. 

That's it for today, thanks for reading! I know I couldn't cover all aspects. Let me know if I missed anything in the comments. Press the ♥️  button if you liked this edition.

Talk to you soon!


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