I tried the Vizer app and so should you, San Diego

I am incredibly stoked that The Bachelorette returns tonight. My two favorite Bachelor franchise podcasts, Here to Make Friends and Rose Pricks - A Bachelor Roast, have already done their initial takes on the contestants. ABC waited extra long this time to put out cast bios, because the winner of the last season of The Bachelorette was vetted by Bachelor Nation better than ABC with regard to problematic social media behavior. So, you let the internet figure out who the crazies are, and you get rid of them before one of them goes on to win the show.

However, I’ve already chosen my favorite to win, and he’s already been vetted by all the random internet people. His name is Dylan Barbour. He’s the cofounder and COO of the Vizer app. Simply put, Vizer is an app that allows you to exercise while simultaneously getting you free food and donating food to starving children. He cofounded it with his cousin, Sam, who seems to be a business prodigy; she’s the CEO. Apparently they are based out of Mission Hills. (Looks west towards the sky and waves; I’m writing this from my patio in Mission Valley on a cloudy morning, watching birds fly over the San Diego River.) And yes, the app is totally free, which is the source of all these questions about what the heck is the business model here.

In a word, I think it’s genius. They’ve partnered with business sponsors - yoga studios, restaurants, etc. - who are presumably the revenue stream. When you hit 10,000 steps a day with your Apple or Fitbit device, or you get your heart rate up for 30 minutes, you get a credit. Each credit you use to donate a meal to the San Diego Food Bank. After you donate 2 or 3 credits, you get free food at one of the businesses. In my case, I’ll be heading over to Empanada Kitchen later today en route to the gym. I’d thought about holding off on reviewing until after I ate said empanada, but… well, I haven’t eaten an empanada I didn’t love. And this place has 5 stars on Yelp and seems legit.

I’d like to take a moment to provide a little bit of context to those who aren’t San Diegans. While everyone knows we love our sunshine and fitness, what many don’t appreciate is the level of poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity. Most people are peripherally aware, but until you’ve lived here or visited more than once, it’s difficult to appreciate fully. It’s easily our largest challenge as a city. The San Diego Food Bank’s website provides some of the key statistics: “Of San Diego County’s 3.2 million residents, 486,000 people face food insecurity every day. Of this number, 163,000 are children. Food insecurity means that little or no food is available at home, and those who are food insecure do not know how they will get their next meal. Currently, 1 in 7 adults, and 1 in 5 children face food insecurity in San Diego County".” I’m a doctor, so I want everyone to eat and exercise and be healthy.

The app itself is sleekly designed. It doesn’t crash or anything. Interface is intuitive, clean, and simple. I’m not without my criticisms, but they’re criticisms basically all exercise apps face, and in this case, I think a lot of them will go away with time as the app develops and more people use it:

  1. Interconnectability is an issue. I use a Garmin Connect Vivoactive HR which feeds into my iPhone’s Health data which feeds into the . I log/track my exercise with the Garmin Connect app. So the 30 minutes of rowing I do at Fit doesn’t get me credit for exercise. Unideal, but I have a feeling that integration with Garmin Connect might already be on their to-do list. And from a practical perspective, I try to get 10,000 steps along with some yoga and lifting daily given my current fitness goals.

  2. What constitutes exercise? Well, at my old job, my watch would go off as my heart rate jumped to at least 120 for hours on end due to stress. So, um, yeah, not healthy, and not an issue now, but I picked the 10,000 steps goal as opposed to 30 minutes of increased heart rate. My heart rate regularly gets me up to 180 or 190 beat per minute, and I’m not sure what exactly the cutoff is. Yoga, fitness classes, etc., can get you 30 min of exercise without 10,000 steps. I’m training for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon under the , so there’s a lot of arm/shoulder work that will probably register some steps. But they’re working on this to partner with businesses where checking into classes can help. (You guys talk to Fit yet? I can put you in touch!)

  3. Limited to San Diego. Not a problem for me personally, but most people reading this will be in other cities. Unless people hear about the app and request it to come to their city, it won’t be there. So, get up off the couch, let them know, and get your 10,000 steps in!

We all struggle to do the exercise we ought to do. I previously worked in a lab doing the research on changes in the portion of the brain responsible for memory - neuroplasticity in the hippocampus. I also used to provide coverage for high school and college teams while I was at Cleveland Clinic for residency. I’d planned to become a Sports Medicine doctor until my own fibromyalgia and other health issues got in the way of that. We all know we should exercise but struggle with the accountability and motivation. This app is the perfect remedy to that, and I hope it takes off in San Diego and other cities.

Update 5/14/2019: I’ve been informed by Vizer via email that Garmin integration is already in the pipeline!

Update 5/16/2019: In the meantime, if you use Garmin Connect, you can have it feed to the Health app on your iPhone, make sure you have your iPhone set to have the Connect app as the primary source by dragging it first. Otherwise, it may use the data your iPhone has collected.

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