HeiaHeia.com, the social tracker of physical activity, will soon be whipping Finland’s youth into fighting shape. The Finnish Defence Forces are leveraging the HeiaHeia platform and launching a joint pilot initiative to improve the physical fitness of conscripts. The pilot, called MarsMars (loosely meaning “march, march” in Finnish), aims to increase physical activity among conscripts prior to the start of their military service.

“The Defence Forces have an important role in national health promotion in promoting young men’s physical activity,” says Lieutenant Colonel Matti Santtila of the Personnel Division of the Finnish Defence Forces. “We believe that a social media service for physical activity, taken into use at the call-ups, can appeal to just those young individuals who have previously not engaged regularly in physical activity. A social community with well known friends could be a way to attract youth to move more.”

The HeiaHeia service boils down to an online exercise log with social hooks to keep you interested. With the platform,you are able to friend others, publish your workouts to social media, and thus motivate each other to exercise more. It also features basic game mechanics to further push people to exercise, such as top lists among your friends and so on.

With the pilot program, males participating in call-ups will first evaluate their level of fitness and then define their objective. Based on this information the service will offer each a personalized training program, the content of which has been developed by the Sports School and the Personnel Division of the Defence Command. Conscripts can then log their workouts on MarsMars.fi and also cheer friends’ activities with various virtual rewards.

A visible promoter in the MarsMars.fi communications is professional ice hockey player Mikael Granlund, who is currently completing his military service in the Sports School.

“You don’t need to be a top athlete to complete your service, but it’s good even for your own comfort to be in a reasonable shape upon entering service,” encourages Granlund. “I believe that HeiaHeia can help even the previously less active ones to find motivation to move more. Not everyone needs to play hockey – it’s enough that you move enough in a way that you find inspiring”

The MarsMars pilot started yesterday and will finish by the end of 2012. Research will be made on the impact of the pilot, which will allow the National Defense Force to base their decision regarding further use of social media services in call-ups.

Image by Vestman on Flickr