Providing cutting edge digital solutions with Zurich Life and Garmin

Providing cutting edge digital solutions with Zurich Life and Garmin

Hintsa Performance starts working with Zurich Life, one of Ireland’s leading insurance companies and Garmin, the leading wearable manufacturer, to enhance the health and wellbeing of Zurich’s customers. Zurich Life will become the first company in Ireland to incorporate cutting edge digital solutions in its life insurance offerings. The pilot will be available to a limited number of customers through selected financial brokers.

Over the past 20 years, Hintsa Performance has grown into a leading provider of services to improve the life and performance of individuals, teams and entire organisations. Hintsa offers science-based coaching services for clientele ranging from Formula 1 World Champions and top CEO’s to executive teams and employees in hundreds of companies around the world. Hintsa believes the goal of reaching better life and better performance belongs to all. The company has focused on scaling its services by developing its own digital platform comprising web services, mobile applications, and reporting tools.

Within the pilot, selected Zurich Life customers taking out a life insurance policy will receive a customised mobile application developed by Hintsa Performance, and a free Garmin Vivosmart HR device. Hintsa’s mobile application complements the Garmin wearable device and gives access to personalised content on health and wellbeing as well as hundreds of training programs and videos. The application also provides the ability to track personal wellbeing goals (e.g. steps, heart rate, sleep, nutrition) and receive guidance from Hintsa experts. Based on the data, Zurich Life will be able to reward customers with cashback and support their fitness and wellbeing achievements.

Hintsa’s digital platform has already been deployed by organisations of all sizes including insurance companies, banks, health providers and Formula One teams. Hintsa’s platform provides organisations with a frictionless way to engage their employees year-round with tasks, surveys, company-wide challenges, and healthy activities. HR and line management receive regular insights based on anonymised data, aggregated from multiple sources. Employers and wellbeing experts are able to impact even larger populations based on the insights provided to them.

Jussi Räisänen, Co-Founder and CEO at Hintsa Performance notes: “At Hintsa, we’re passionate about unlocking human potential and enhancing the everyday life and performance of people. Together with Zurich Life and Garmin we can motivate participants to incorporate a healthy mentality into their daily routines and keep their fitness and wellbeing goals top of mind. Having worked closely with major insurance companies and large corporate customers, we have identified that more than 70% of people who use our digital platform change their lifestyle choices for the better. We’re excited to be part of this pioneering initiative, and look forward to seeing what it can deliver for Zurich’s customers.”

Evan Hanley, Product Solutions Actuary at Zurich Life comments: We’re delighted to work together with Garmin and Hintsa Performance, to bring this cutting edge technology to the life insurance market. The aim is to support customers to become healthier and more active and claim cashback rewards if they continue to engage with the pilot. It will also create an opportunity to assess the role of wearable and digital technology for insurance in Ireland into the future, and to see if it leads to greater customer engagement.”

Read Zurich Life's press release:

About Zurich in Ireland

Zurich is one of Ireland’s leading insurance companies providing a wide range of general insurance and life insurance products and services. The company employs over 1,000 people across its locations in Dublin and Wexford. 

About Zurich Insurance Group

Zurich Insurance Group (Zurich) is a leading multi-line insurer that serves its customers in global and local markets. With about 54,000 employees, it provides a wide range of property and casualty, and life insurance products and services in more than 210 countries and territories. Zurich’s customers include individuals, small businesses, and mid-sized and large companies, as well as multinational corporations. The Group is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, where it was founded in 1872.

About Hintsa Performance

Hintsa Performance is a leading provider of human high performance services. Hintsa offers science-based coaching services and scalable digital tools to improve the life and performance of individuals, teams and entire organisations. Over the past 20 years, Hintsa has grown into a multinational company that serves a clientele ranging from Formula 1 World Champions and top CEO’s to executive teams and employees in hundreds of companies around the world. Hintsa employs nearly 100 professionals including performance coaches, doctors, and software developers. The company is headquartered in Helsinki and it has offices in Geneva, London, Stockholm and Zug.

High Performance Talks: Angela Cullen

High Performance Talks: Angela Cullen

High Performance Talks is our weekly interview series focusing on improving performance through better health and wellbeing. In ten weeks, you will hear fascinating stories from Formula One drivers, top executives, entrepreneurs, university professors and our very own Hintsa experts.

In episode 8, Performance Coach Angela Cullen explains what the Biomechanics component in the Hintsa model is and why it is important to listen to your body. Angela is an experienced physiotherapist and an expert in understanding how the body works. During her career, she has worked with Olympic athletes from Great Britain and New Zealand as well as several Formula 1 drivers.

Can you explain what exactly is biomechanics?

“Biomechanics is the way that the body moves, particularly in terms of the muscles. It’s about ensuring that your body is able to act freely without injury. We study the body and its movements, and we're always looking for ways of making sure that the body is moving efficiently and effectively.”

What do you feel is the most important thing to consider when it comes to biomechanics?

“I think it's always really important to concentrate on three elements when you're looking at biomechanics. I look at alignment which has to do with the joints in the spine. It’s about making sure that the spine is there to support the muscles as well as to provide movement. However, because the nerves come out of the spine as well, it's really important to know that the control of the muscles is affected by the way the spine works. So I always start with alignment and make sure that there's a lot of movement through the spine. And then I work on the muscles in terms of length and mobility, to make sure that we have enough length and strength through the muscles. And then I work on control which has to do with the strength in the way that the muscles switch on and off. That's where we get our power as well as our stability.”

What do you consider as the biggest change in our way of living that is affecting our biomechanics

“Well, sitting plays a really important part now in society. On average people are sitting for up to 10 hours a day. Obviously, this has some great effects on the body in terms of spine stiffness, back and neck stiffness, as well as hip and muscle tightness. It also affects the way that the muscles work in terms of the control, i.e. the way that they switch on and off. And also in terms of strength. So it's really important that we try and reduce the amount of sitting we do each day so that we can actually allow our bodies to function efficiently in the upright position which we're designed to be in.”

Could you share some advice for boosting overall wellbeing?

“I think first it's really important for people to become aware of their own bodies, e.g. the parts that feel stiff and tight, and movements that are difficult for them to do. Because that is their body telling them that there's something not right. Then they need to become proactive and go see experts such as physios or osteopaths before the stiffness or tightness becomes a problem. They need to address any tightness, stiffnesses or difficulties with movement. And then it’s all about preparing the body every day for the things that it needs to perform every day. It can be walking or running, or exercises, or stretching or strengthening programs but a daily basis to make sure your body is ready for the things that it needs to do each day.”

Any final advice for daily exercise?

“I think the most important exercise, is the exercise that the person doing it wants to do. It's so individual and there's no point in recommending a specific exercise if it's not going to be done. So it really comes down to the individual and what they want to do. It really doesn't matter what kind of exercise you are doing, it's just actually getting out there and doing something!”


3 simple questions for improving focus at work

3 simple questions for improving focus at work

From face-transplant surgery to Formula 1, I’m fascinated by the limits of our attention span and how we can improve it. In search of insight, I’ve spoken to a wide range of experts and high-performers in some of the most technically and cognitively demanding environments.

While writing my most recent book, I met with Jyrki Törnwall, a world-leading oral and maxillofacial surgeon. I wanted to find out more about how attention, focus, and concentration are expressed in his work, in particular during face-transplant operations.

Jyrki began his career as a cellist, studying at Helsinki’s prestigious Sibelius Academy, before moving into medicine. I was surprised to discover the significant role that music plays in his work today. “The surgeries themselves follow their own rhythms and intensities,” says Jyrki.

Finding the perfect pitch

He identifies different styles of music to accompany different types of operation. Jazz is a good fit for more routine surgeries: he recently listened to Miles Davis while removing a neck tumour. “But for microsurgery, never jazz. It’s always classical.”

The performance-enhancing potential of music has been studied for over 45 years. While it appears that music may compete for our attention during some tasks, in certain contexts it may be beneficial, providing you select the appropriate genre. During clearly defined and repetitive tasks, it appears that lively mood-enhancing music can improve productivity.

Other studies suggest that melodic, harmonious music may improve concentration. A 2015 study described how listening to classical music altered the activity of genes associated with dopamine secretion, transport, and synaptic neurotransmission, which may have implications for learning and memory formation. However, it appears that music featuring lyrics may have a negative impact on attention and performance during tasks that require language processing.

Fitting the right music to the task may improve concentration

Fitting the right music to the task may improve concentration

From personal experience, Jyrki concludes that classical music is most appropriate for the precision needed to connect arteries that may only be 2 to 4mm in diameter, using thread one-tenth the thickness of a human hair.

“Nerve cells are easier,” Jyrki explains, “but veins can be the toughest because the walls are like jelly. Gradually you learn and learn.” Jyrki’s 15 years of cello playing and high-level recitals trained his brain and hands to work in concert, but he believes the discipline of mastering a musical instrument also helped him prepare for the intense focus that microsurgery requires.

However, Jyrki explains that the pace and intensity of focus during operations are not constant: the performances have their own adagios and andantes. “There are some parts I know I can move through quite quickly, but then for certain things, like tissue manipulation, I need to slow down again.”, he says.

Planning and mental rehearsal

I was interested to find out more about Jyrki’s preparation for the intensity of surgery, and he again drew comparison with musical recitals. Both require long periods of careful planning. Jyrki and his team must prepare meticulously for each surgery.

With face-transplant surgery, there are few life-like ways to rehearse, so Jyrki has trained himself to prime his attention and focus for the performance through detailed mental rehearsal. A face transplant surgery has 83 checkpoints and Jyrki goes through each one, paying careful attention to simulating and working through them in his mind.

The science of attention

The words ‘attention’ and ‘concentration’ are often used interchangeably, but there are subtle distinctions. Attention is the process of exerting mental effort on specific features of our environment. Concentration is a facet of attention when we focus on the most relevant stimuli in relation to a task.

You could imagine your attention as a ‘mental spotlight’, a concept first proposed in the 1980s. We move the spotlight to concentrate on what we think is most important. This can include external targets, such as the world around us, as well as illuminating our internal world: our thoughts and feelings.

Our concentration is never truly lost, but it can be directed at the wrong place. If you’ve ever entered a room, been momentarily distracted, then realized you have forgotten why you walked in there in the first place, you know what I mean.

Our spotlight is often displaced because of distractions and interruptions. We are distracted and interrupted by information in our internal or external environment that is not relevant to our immediate goals. Distractions are distinct from interruptions because distractions occur against our will.

In contrast, interruptions are more conscious. For example, you may experience an external distraction when you hear an alert from your mobile phone, momentarily drawing your attention away from the task in hand.

Mind wandering

Mind wandering is a frequent source of internal distraction, like when you wonder mid-conversation whether you locked your front door. Even if we would prefer to ignore them, distractions are hard to resist.

In contrast, interruptions are voluntary. They occur when we choose to engage in a new task, in addition to a current task. This usually results in rapid switching between tasks and a reduction in cognitive performance.

For example, an internal interruption may occur when you’re listening to a dull presentation and find yourself wondering what to have for dinner while trying to keep track of the major points in the speech.

Mobile devices present a common form of external distraction, leading to the infuriating habit of people simultaneously trying to hold a conversation with you while reading a text message. Of course, I have never been guilty of that. 

Distractions and interruptions are both a form of interference that can increase unhelpful forms of stress, diminish our performance and prevent us from achieving our goals. Unfortunately, human beings are very susceptible.


Goal setting

One view suggests our vulnerability is due to the relative sophistication of our goal-setting abilities relative to our cognitive-control capabilities. Humans are very good at setting goals. This has enabled our species to thrive and populate a wide variety of environments.

Our goal-setting abilities can be described as ‘executive functions’, including evaluation, decision-making, organization and planning.

Our goal-setting abilities can be described as ‘executive functions’, including evaluation, decision-making, organization and planning.

Cognitive control includes the number of items we can hold in our working memory and our capacity to manage multiple goals. For much of human history, our goal-setting abilities have been relatively well matched with our capacity for cognitive control, but our current ways of living and working expose our weaknesses.

In our ancient past, progress was aided by people obtaining as much information as was available. Consider humans in a village society with the aim of expanding their territory and resources. It would serve them well to seek as much information as possible, to search for new experiences and explore what lay on the other side of the mountain. The environment and available technology would rarely overwhelm their ability to evaluate, make decisions, organize and plan.

In contrast, today’s knowledge worker has the same desire for novelty and new information, but the access to information provided by new technologies often overwhelms our limited cognitive control capabilities.

We need to take steps to manage our attention and concentration, to avoid distraction. We may need to restrict our access to information to provide the best opportunity to achieve our goals, whether we are conducting microsurgery, or trying to complete an article on time.

I’ve developed a simple method to help to direct your ‘attention spotlight’ on what matters most, to resist interruption and allocate your cognitive resources appropriately. The method has three steps that I describe using the acronym ‘PriMe’. Next time you need to concentrate on a particular task, ask yourself the following three questions:

Sustaining concentration and dealing with stress

A single face transplant surgery takes 24 hours, and the working time around it, in preparation and follow-up, is even longer. Along the way, nurses change every six to eight hours, but the surgeons have to keep going. How can one human being perform optimally for such a long period?

“You can’t just put down your scalpel and say ‘now I’ll take a six-hour break’,” laughs Jyrki. “I’ve been able to build up my abilities to deal with it over time.” It takes time to develop your capacity to sustain attention and requires planning to structure your environment in a way that is conducive to producing your best work.

I suggest that you try the PriMe method for yourself. Begin with relatively short periods of unbroken concentration, and aim to make progress, rather than achieve perfection. Unless, of course, you are performing intricate facial surgery.

This article was first published on the World Economic Forum Agenda.


James Hewitt, Head of Science & Innovation
James is passionate about investigating the potential of our high performance bodies and brains. He is an author, speaker and his work includes consulting with Formula 1 drivers, teams, in elite sport and with global corporations.

High Performance Talks: Pippa Laukka & Ralph Braun

High Performance Talks: Pippa Laukka & Ralph Braun

High Performance Talks is our weekly interview series focusing on improving performance through better health and wellbeing. In ten weeks, you will hear fascinating stories from Formula One drivers, top executives, entrepreneurs, university professors and our very own Hintsa experts.

In episode 7 of our series our medical professionals Dr. Pippa Laukka and Dr. Ralph Braun share interesting insights about the connection between health and performance as well as the scientific knowledge behind the Hintsa model. Pippa Laukka, Hintsa's Chief Medical Office in Finland, is one of country's leading sports doctors and has treated professional and amateur athletes for well over 20 years. In addition to his work as a cancer specialist and sports doctor, Ralph Braun is part of the Hintsa Science Board.

What does it mean to be healthy?

Ralph: “I think every person who has blood pumping well through their body is somewhat healthy, but even though the person might be healthy, they might not be performing at their best. Usually, when people talk about health, they talk about medical health or general health and don't talk about mental wellbeing or sleep and recovery. These are some details that many people miss.

There's a big interaction between the general health and performance. General health impacts your wellbeing and your performance, and in turn, the wellbeing and lifestyle choices impact your general health. That link is something that not many people are seeing.”

Pippa: “In general you need to look your health from the inside out. In the Hintsa model we have the core, i.e. the identity, purpose, and control over your life, and on the other hand the 6 elements that are affecting daily life and your habits. Your health is a combination of mental, physical, and cognitive assets that you have at your disposal.”

What can people do to stay healthy?

Ralph: “There are many diseases you could prevent just with your lifestyle choices. Let me give you an example: one-third of all cancers could be prevented by actively changing your habits. If you quit smoking, don't drink alcohol, move more, reduce your weight and eat healthy you reduce your cancer risk by one-third, and that is enormous! So you have an important role in your own health.”

Pippa: “Yes, we all know the basic stuff: eat healthy, exercise regularly and sleep enough, but still half of the adult population is obese. So diseases are not only depended on the decisions you make in daily life. It's also about mental energy: what you have inside, your inner motivation, self-confidence, and most of all your ability to use your mental power to make those healthy daily choices.”

So there is a connection between mental and physical health?

Ralph: “Yes definitely, as Pippa mentioned there is a big interaction between mental energy and general health. We all know, you cannot eat well if you don't have the energy to do it. Or if you don't have the commitment to do it. You need to go there and do your shopping and make those right decisions. You need to have the mental energy to be active, to move, to lose weight and to sleep and recover. So you need to have the energy, you need to be in control. And it works the other way around too; when you eat well, when you move and when you have a good diet, you feel much better and more energetic.

It is an upward spiral. It's very easy to get into the downward spiral, to move less, to eat unhealthy, to feel you have less and less energy. That's automatic. You don't have to do anything for it to happen. But the upward spiral, that is very difficult to get into. But once you're in, it really can pull you up! It’s nice.”

Pippa: “Also there's a link between mind and body. Our thoughts and emotions can have a great effect on our physical wellbeing. An excessive storage of negative thoughts can cause stress and depression. That in turn, has a great influence on your physical wellbeing, hormone function and also immunity. Many diseases are immunological problems that are in fact caused by mental problems. 

It's a two-way street. The life habits and choices in diet and exercising, then have a great effect on our mental health and through that on our overall wellbeing, our holistic wellbeing.”

What is your favourite thing about the Hintsa model?

Pippa: “It's basically a medical tool. It's based on scientific knowledge. That's the backbone of everything we do, and we don't want to do it in any other way. We want to have scientific knowledge and we use that knowledge in our philosophy.”

Ralph: “The problems with wellbeing have been around for a long time. The problems have been identified and there are different approaches for tackling them. Some unique approaches are just taking care of the movement, or nutrition, or just one element, but what makes Hintsa unique is not only the holistic approach of all six areas but also the core. The core is: Who am I? What do I really want? And that core is associated with all the other elements. I have never seen that anywhere else. The core makes a big, big difference.”

How can one improve their general wellbeing, if they don't have much energy?

Ralph: “Usually people that are not doing well, they don't have the energy to do better. What I see is that people have many self-help books – there are so many books and podcast and such out there – so clearly people are looking for help, but they don't know what to do.

I would advise starting by looking at the six areas of the Hintsa model; How is your general health? How is your sleep and how could you improve your sleep? How do you eat and how could you improve what you eat? Are you moving enough? How is your biomechanics? You can start by looking at these areas and see where you need improvement. Because very often you know it.

Sometimes I call it like a catalysator. You can have somebody, like the Hintsa coaches that help you, but the idea has to come from you. It has to come from inside out. Someone else cannot tell you do 10.000 steps. It should be you wanting to try and then seeing how you feel better. It’s all about your own motivation. It makes a big difference.”

Pippa: “Yes, and basically the wellbeing that comes after that is sort of a by-product. I think it's challenging for many people because they start from the wrong direction. They start from changing their life, but they don't know why they are doing it, and what is the purpose and meaning behind it. They first need to consider what is the core, what they want in life, what are they aiming for.”

If you could give the readers just one simple piece of advice, what would it be?

Pippa: “Know who you are!”

Ralph: “Apart from the more general eating well, sleeping well and moving and getting the exercise? Ask yourself these questions; Who are you and what do you want, what do you really want? Ask these from yourself and answer them honestly, because it's very easy to cheat on this one, but it will bite you back later. And once you know, that's the start and that's what it's all about. Be authentic, be you! Be in control, be in control of your life!”