McCann Health Japan’s ‘TRAIN’ing app provides personalised exercises to Tokyo commuters to try to address rising health problems in Japan.

According to research, the average Japanese person spends around two hours a day commuting by train. With the aim to “transform the train from a place of travel into a place for growth,” McCann Health Japan’s new app ‘TRAIN’ing seeks to address Japan’s increasing need for better health management by making use of geofencing technology to provide guided physical and mental exercises into daily life, using only what can be found on the train. We sat down with McCann Health Japan’s Senior Experience Designer Mai Kaneda and Executive Creative Director Shunsuke Kakinami to discuss how their app could solve the rising problems of health in Japan. 

How does the ‘TRAIN’ing App work?

The app can communicate with the beacons that are installed within the trains and can detect information, such as where the user actually boarded the train, how many stations they’re planning to travel past, and also the congestion levels of the carriages. It then calculates the optimal exercise for that person for that particular commute. 

One of the app’s unique characteristics is its ability to personalise its content. We’ve developed a series of exercises with a professional trainer, so the application looks at the certain needs of the user and comes up with the optimal exercises that suit that user’s needs. There are different types of training exercises installed in the app and, depending on where they are, whether that be standing up near a strap, holding on to a pole or sitting down in the seat, the app can offer the optimal exercise for them based on their whereabouts. On the mindfulness side, the app also offers guided meditation exercises and plays nature sounds in the background, allowing users to meditate and refresh their minds by going through various breathing exercises.

McCann Health Japan 'TRAIN'ing team

What was the main inspiration behind the app? 

The whole concept of this app is to transform a place of travel – trains – into a place for growth. Our client is the East Japan Railway Company, which is the largest railroad company operating in Japan. If we talk about scale, around 13 million people make use of the East Japan Railway Company’s transport services in one way or another every day. We wanted to change this mode of transport, which, at the moment, is just about getting from one place to another, to something a little more valuable – something more meaningful to the people using the services. We’re hoping that this app will provide the opportunity for people to actually start taking action to improve their health.

What kind of health problems are people in Japan facing today?

One problem that we see is the long working hours, which are definitely causing health issues. Japanese people work very long hours, so although they may have the desire or the need to go to the gym or exercise after work, it’s actually a really hard thing to do. I think the challenge here is: how can we generate opportunities for people to try and take up healthy habits or exercises in their busy lives?

In addition, culturally speaking, people used to work for a company for pretty much their whole lives, so companies would take responsibility and try to sustain the long-term health of their employees. However, the ways of working in Japan are changing at the moment – there are more freelancers and people are changing jobs more frequently than before. You can’t expect a company to manage your health long-term anymore; each individual has to take leadership in managing their own health. We think there are a lot more opportunities in the healthcare industry to help support these new ways of working and new lifestyles that the Japanese people are trying to live. 

McCann Health Japan 'TRAIN'ing App Screenshots

What role do you think ‘TRAIN’ing plays in solving these problems?

Making radical changes to your lifestyle is quite difficult for most people. Rather than trying to make a drastic change, or take drastic measures and actions, it’s important for people to try and change one thing about their lifestyle first or to start adding small things into their lifestyle. Step-by-step action is important for your health, which is why we believe this app could have a role to play in people’s lives. Because commuting is an everyday thing, we will be able to send commuters helpful reminders on a daily basis, making it easier for people to add small exercises into their daily lives. 

The ‘TRAIN’ing app is available on the App Store in Japan – and currently only works on E235 series trains on the Yamanote Line.


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