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The Y: Body & Mind

An app encouraging YMCA members to make use of the gyms' resources and improve their fitness through workouts and classes organized by mood goals. 


A 2015 CDC study found that only 26% of adults ages 18 to 64 meet the 2008 federal Physical Activity Guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.


For this theoretical project, my team and I created a digital solution for the YMCA to increase member engagement. There is a wealth of reliable information in the US on the benefits of exercise on overall health; however, people lack the knowledge and education on how best to meet their fitness goals. People from all income levels need accessible information and guidance to create and achieve their fitness goals and ultimately lead healthier lives.


UX Designer, 6 weeks

The Objective


Users need help determining and achieving their fitness and wellness goals.

We set out to design a digital experience specifically geared towards helping people make use of the physical fitness resources offered by the YMCA. The goal was to develop a product that meets current and prospective YMCA members’ goals, needs, and motivations as they pertain to physical fitness.
From the research, we found that users intrinsically connect mental wellness to physical fitness. I created a digital app that would encourage users to determine and accomplish their fitness goals through the lens of improving mental health and mood. 


There were some constraints I had to keep in mind while executing the project. These guidelines made the project reflective of a real-world process with a client, which was valuable in creating a realistic solution.

  1. The solution must focus on the available physical fitness resources at all YMCAs.

  2. The product should respect that ‘fitness’ may mean different things to different users since the YMCA caters to a broad range of users.

  3. The product should apply to all YMCA locations nationwide.


SMEs emphasized external physical goals and motivating factors. 

We began our user research by speaking with YMCA employees to gain an understanding of the member's needs from a subject matter expert's perspective.
The main takeaways from the SMEs were: 

1. Most common goal:

  • Weight loss 


2. Biggest challenge in achieving fitness goals:

  • Staying motivated enough to be consistent


3. Keys to staying motivated: 

  • Accountability & encouragement 

  • Social engagement 


Users focus on internal and intrinsic fitness goals and motivating factors.

We conducted user interviews and contextual inquiries to better understand users' goals, motivations, and frustrations in achieving physical fitness goals. For the contextual inquiries, we observed and interviewed people as they interacted with a fitness app they regularly use.

The most significant finding from synthesizing the research was how much users mentioned their mental and emotional states when discussing physical fitness. Their goals in pursuing physical fitness were intrinsically tied to a desire to feel happier and feel healthier. Users wanted to feel good, mentally, and physically. We were intrigued at the disconnect between what SMEs said as users' primary goal, and what the users were saying were their primary goals.

Could a product that highlights the connection between mental health and fitness motivate users to stick to a fitness routine?

We sent out a Google survey to further explore this connection between mental health and physical health. The results further confirmed that users make a significant connection between pursuing physical fitness and improving their mental wellbeing. Since the data showed a strong correlation between emotional wellbeing and physical fitness, there was an exciting opportunity for YMCA to offer a product that helps users achieve their fitness goals in conjunction with their mental wellness goals.

Revisiting competitors from a wellness angle. 

1.2 million Americans who exercise report having 1.5 fewer days of poor mental health a month, compared to people who do not exercise. The study found that team sports, cycling, aerobics and going to the gym are associated with the biggest reductions, according to the largest observational study of its kind.

The Lancet Psychiatry journal, 2018

In our first round of competitor analysis, we focused on products that pertained solely to fitness, including workout apps and gym apps. From this research, we determined that the market was fairly saturated with fitness apps and that most required self-motivation from the user. From this insight, we had decided to explore ways to incentivize, encourage, and motivate users along their fitness journey. 


However, after reviewing the insights from user research, I decided to revisit potential competitors to analyze potential competitors in the mental wellness space. I took inspiration from the Calm app, discovering opportunities to integrate mental wellness features into a fitness product.


Milestones as tracking and motivation


Offers multi-day meditation plans to achieve a mood goal 


Features a daily quote as motivation and inspiration


To synthesize and internalize all our findings, we created a number of artifacts to help empathize with users. 

I always feel better when I workout - mentally, physically, emotionally. I wish could be motivated to workout even after a long day at work. Because I know I'd feel better.

Jessica, 28, New Yorker

Design Principles


Give users the autonomy to personalize the content to empower them on their health journey.


The solution should reflect the YMCA's philosophy of empowering the individual for the betterment of the community through available resources on the product.


Allow users to understand and take control of their physical health by providing info and tracking features for more than just fitness.


Provide reliable and up-to-date scannable info to users that go above and beyond typical fitness apps, empowering them on their wellness journey.


Search for a workout by a desired mood, instead of a physical goal.

In creating divergent concepts, the team and I focused on different features of a product that could combine mental and physical wellness. Users consistently mentioned how much exercise had an impact on their mental wellness, and in creating a solution, I focused on how to motivated users through this connection of the mind and the body. Through rapid sketching, I created a filterable exercise/workout finder that helps YMCA members who have different fitness and mental health goals find, customize, and efficiently execute workouts at the gym or home.


Concept testing takeaways.

  1. Users were interested in the concept of workouts based on mental health.

  2. Users were apprehensive when seeing workouts that emphasize addressing negative feelings, like anxiety, but excited when workouts focused on positive feelings as a goal.

  3. Users want more context/reliable information on why certain workouts would be good for different mental states.  

  4. Users would rather have short articles or tips than long articles. 

  5. A dedicated meditation and mood journaling section does not have a significant tie to the YMCA's offerings to satisfy the project constraints and users' needs.

Usability Testing



  • 5 users

  • Millennials

  • City dwellers 

  • Interested in physical fitness 

  • New user   

  • Technically proficient



  • Lab and remote testing

  • Retroactive probing

  • Concurrent think aloud



  • Determine the level of usability

  • Measure the delight of the product

  • Whether the product meets the users’ need

  • Test ease and clarity of navigation through task completion

Initial Solution - Workouts Flow


Testing Key Takeaways

Users were interested and delighted by a fitness app that approaches exercise from the perspective of improving mental health and wellness.

When tasks and scenarios were clear, most users navigated through the majority of the app easily and quickly. 

Further clarity was needed for needed to increase usability on the homepage mood tracking graph, onboarding, and profile sections.

The Iterated Design Solution

Future Steps

While this was a theoretical project, the user-tested solution would be the first in the market to integrate fitness and mental wellness into one product. In potential further iterations, my next steps would be to create and test a high-fidelity mockup, as well as test the solution with older and younger age groups, as those two demographics also make up a large number of YMCA members. While the project focused on UX design and did not require high-fidelity mockups, I decided to create high-fidelity versions to practice my visual design skills and round out the project with completed designs. 

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