Phileas Fit: A vitality trip around the world in three months

As an organization, how can you encourage your employees to get fitter? By combining gamification and blended care and making healthy behaviour fun, according to entrepreneur and lifestyle coach, Mira Overkleeft-de Bruin and company doctor and researcher at the Erasmus MC Tessa Kouwenhoven. Their joint vision has led to vitality programme, Phileas Fit. ‘We close the gap between knowing but not doing.’


Coming up a recipe for a healthy pizza in Italy. Testing your leg muscles during a hike up the Table Mountain in South Africa. And learning about the effects of alcohol, while dancing in swinging South America. These are just three games that Phileas Fit participants play during their vitality trip around the world. During this virtual trip, they cover twelve continents in six weeks, and complete a new stage every week. The key themes of nutrition, exercise and relaxation always pop up again.  


Sustainable solution

The name Phileas Fit was inspired by Jules Verne's book, Around the World in Eighty Days. In it, the protagonist, Phileas Fogg goes on an adventure. ‘The participants of our programme also go on an adventure,’ says Mira Overkleeft-de Bruin, who, together with partner Ad, runs Phileas Fit. They have worked in the fitness and wellness sector for many years and gradually developed into nutrition teacher and lifestyle coach.  In 2017, she came up with, a concept to help people lose weight in a fun way, without. ‘Because that's what often happens,’ says Mira. ‘Dieting is fighting a losing battle. I wanted a sustainable solution, where people experience the process as fun.’


Take the plunge

During the pilot stage of Fitspel Mira stumbled upon scientific research from Tessa Kouwenhoven, company doctor of the Erasmus MC. ‘For five years, she researched how gamification in combination with blended care (a mix of face-to-face sessions and online care, red.) could be used to promote healthy behaviour,’ says Mira. ‘She had thought up a concept similar to mine, Reis je Fit (Travel and get Fit), but then with scientific proof. I took the plunge and approached Tessa through LinkedIn. My goal was to see the complete study and see what I could learn from it. But we were so much on the same page professionally, it wasn't long before we were talking about whether we could market Tessa's research.’


Play and reward

With support from Zorginnovaties010 Phileas Fit emerged, that is developed in co-creation with and validated by the Erasmus MC. The programme helps companies and organizations to encourage their employees to get fit. 'The focus is on employee participation,' says Mira. 'They should experience healthier behaviour as fun and not as tedious. Which is now often the case with many programmes that they can follow at work or at home. You should play and reward instead of dishing out instructions and pointing the finger. That makes all the difference.’


Selfie from the eighteenth floor

Phileas Fit starts with a baseline measurement, which is used to determine each individual employee's level. Then the 12 week journey starts across six continents, with three interim measurement moments. The programme is distinguished not only by the game elements, but also by the use of social incentives, immediate reward and insight into results. Mira: ‘There are quizzes, content about vitality, and also all kinds of assignments. Take the Table Mountain hike. People have to look for a high spot in their surroundings, which they have to climb. Then, via the App, they can send photos from a hill, from a stairwell or from the top floor of an eighteen floor apartment building.’


Team connection motivates

The employees compete with each other in different teams. 'Participants love that,' says Mira. ‘That gives an extra incentive because everyone wants to be the best in the organization. What's more, every individual can contribute to the team performance at his or her own level. Team members can give each other points, for example, for the best healthy pizza recipe. Each stage has a winner, who gets online badges, and also gets an actual prize. At the end of the journey, we award prizes to the winning team and the best individual participant. But everyone is a winner, because we make all the participants, and therefore the whole organization, fitter. And we create awareness for the importance of vitality and lifestyle.’



Last year, on the initiative of deRotterdamseZorg PhileasFit ran a pilot at, among others, IJsselland Hospital, Franciscus Gasthuis & Vlietland, Erasmus MC, Pameijer, Middin, Albeda College and Ikazia. Studies carried out by LEF!  showed that the programme has a positive effect on vitality. Particularly when it comes to exercise, the majority of participants indicated that they had not only become more aware of how important it is, but that they had also (permanently) changed their behaviour and lifestyle.  ‘That was great confirmation,’ says Mira. ‘Now we want to be the first, scientifically validated vitality programme that demonstrates that it permanently improves vitality. In collaboration with the Erasmus MC we are working hard on collecting data, so that we can prove that. After that, we hope to be recognised by healthcare insurers. And before then, we will already enter the market and with the help of our investors, we hope to continue to develop our product.’


‘Working in Rotterdam is great’

It is something that Diemen-based Mira could not have dreamed of three years ago. ‘It has gone so fast! I think it's amazing how much is happening in Rotterdam in the LSH-sector. I never realised it before, but Rotterdam is way ahead of the rest. The willingness to support starting entrepreneurs and to listen to my idea, was massive. Working in Rotterdam is great.’


Want to know more about Phileas Fit? Check out or contact Mira Overkleeft-de Bruin to discuss how the vitality programme can work for your organization too.