Ssome of us look at a treadmill, sigh dramatically, and declare, “You couldn’t payment to go to the gym.” Others, however, can be bribed to work with small amounts of obscure cryptocurrencies.
Those in the latter group are the target audience for move-to-win apps that reward users with cryptocurrency, irreplaceable tokens (NFTs, which are unique digital tokens) or points (like those you earn with a credit card) in exchange for training. In the Sweatcoin app, for example, users earn one cryptocurrency token or Sweatcoin for every 1,000 steps they take; they can be saved or redeemed for goods or services. Dozens of similar platforms exist, and the trend seems to be gaining momentum: Olympic athlete Usain Bolt recently announced it is partnered with soon to be released step appwhich will allow users to earn NFT and cryptocurrency for physical activities like jogging or walking their dog.
The concept gives new meaning to fitness gains. “It’s a really new way to motivate people to move, and it’s always great to be rewarded for exercise,” says Kevin Harris, a personal trainer based in Redondo Beach, Calif., who has experimented with moving apps to gain, like Sweatcoin. “A lot of people would exercise more if they didn’t think they were losing something else, like work time or time for rest and relaxation.” Financial incentives make fitness more attractive, he says.
Stefan Ateljevic, an entrepreneur from Serbia, spent months using it STEP, which rewards exercise with cryptocurrency that can be redeemed or used to upgrade the app experience. During a time earlier this year when demand for cryptocurrency exceeded supply, “I was making over $100 a day” in cryptocurrency, Atelevich says. “The idea is brilliant because it forces people to get out of the house, a la Pokémon Go. Nothing is better for geeks, mentally and physically, than getting proper exercise every day. Besides earning a decent amount of cryptocurrency, he says he’s lost a few pounds and started to enjoy working out.
Move-to-earn apps that reward users in cryptocurrency put a new spin on an old concept. Researchers have long been interested in whether financial incentives for physical activity are effective because only 23% of American adults perform the federally recommended amount of aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity each week. “We have strong evidence that they work,” says Kathryn Milkman, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in behavioral economics and behavior change.
According to one meta-analysis published in 2013 in American Journal of Preventive Medicine, financial incentives that ranged from about $2 to $46 per week increased exercise participation for up to six months and were particularly effective for sedentary adults. others research found that consistently doing even small amounts — like one-thousandth of a cent per step — led to increased physical activity.
A study published in 2021 Nature found that small cash prizes – such as those collected through move-to-win apps – can play an important role in motivating people to exercise. In the study, nearly 62,000 American gym-goers participated in various digital programs that promote exercise. Participants can earn small cash prizes, such as $1.75 in Amazon points for going to the gym or 9 cents for returning to the gym after a missed workout. Almost half of these interventions were able to increase weekly gym attendance at rates that ranged from 9% to 27%.
“When you’re already motivated to achieve a goal, gamification seems to layer on additional motivation,” says Milkman, who co-authored the study. “This is true even if you’re just earning points and it has literally no value. Even token rewards work.
Milkman predicts that we will see more incentives for physical activity in the future, perhaps from health insurance companies. “Offering small rewards for something that’s so good for you and should keep costs down seems like an obvious win,” she says.
But there is a catch. Some cryptocurrency-based move-and-earn apps require an initial investment: you might need to spend a few hundred dollars on an NFT in the form of a “digital sneaker,” for example. (Ateljevic recalls spending about $900 on STPN.) These purchases are one way the move-and-earn apps make money; app creators also typically receive a commission on all cryptocurrency earned.
Research shows that putting your own money on the line actually deepens engagement. “We know that the losses are greater than the gains,” says Milkman. “So I think it won’t hurt, it might even help.”
But crypto’s volatility makes these apps a gamble when it comes to forming a long-term exercise habit. For example, in May demand for cryptocurrencies fell, and Atelevich sold most of his crypto and stopped using the app. Now he works “here and there” – but “when you get paid in crypto to do it, it’s so much better.” Another downside to these apps is that most assume at least some understanding of cryptocurrency and technology. Those who want to try moving apps to earn will need a smartphone, maybe a smartwatch and maybe even web3 a wallet that makes it possible to store, send and receive cryptocurrencies. Such obstacles hardly guarantee that these applications will not be effective in getting a significant portion of the population to move more. “The more barriers you put in front of someone, the more complicated you make something, the lower the use and the lower the benefit,” says Milkman. This is not to say that these platforms are not useful, but rather that they may not be universally attractive or effective.
If you’re interested in giving the concept a try, here’s what you need to know about three popular move-and-earn apps:
After spending more than 20 years in the fitness industry, including working as a personal trainer, Eddie Lester decided to combine his passion for helping people get in shape with his growing interest in cryptocurrency. The result is MetaGyma futuristic tool launched in 2021 that rewards fitness, sleep and meditation.
To get started, users are outfitted with human NFT avatars that cost around $100 to $300 and are called MetaGym Buddies. “It’s almost like your gym membership,” says Lester. “Purchasing NFT gives you access to our platform, which has the earning mechanisms, but also a bunch of other benefits.”
After logging into the platform, you will connect the app to your smartwatch or other we wear a fitness tracker, as well as to a web3 wallet. After its earnings engine launched in August, users who engage in healthy activities — like working out or meditating— will earn cryptocurrency tokens that can be used to purchase items such as workout equipment or be exchanged for cash.
For example, recording a cardio workout would be worth about 40 “heart rate tokens” or $2-$3, while a resistance workout would fetch 20 tokens or $1-$2. Getting a great night’s sleep will bring in another $1-$2. (Lester points out that as cryptocurrency values fluctuate, these numbers could go up or down.)
“There’s clearly a benefit to having a financial incentive for health-related behavior—it’s motivating,” says Lester. “But what I’m most excited about are the communities we’re building. MetaGym is so strongly focused on social support to help people form healthy behaviors and develop friendships,” including through a Discord server that users regularly use to chat.
Anton Derlyatka – co-founder and CEO of Sweatcoin– think of your application as symbolizing movement. It’s a free program that uses motion-checking technology to track daily steps (which means cheating the system by, say, shaking your phone up and down won’t work).
When he started Sweatcoin — which Derlyatka says now has more than 100 million registered users — he was determined to build a product that was accessible to people of all fitness levels. His mother, who is 86 and only takes a few hundred steps a day, serves as a litmus test. If she can use the app, he says, anyone can: “The barriers to entry are really low.”
For every 1,000 steps, users earn 1 Sweetcoin (minus a 5% commission that goes to the app). These tokens are like credit card points that can be redeemed for products, services or coupons or donated to charity. For example, 2 coins can unlock a $5 Amazon voucher; 10 coins gives access to a 20% discount on Garmin smartwatches. On a recent afternoon, a user participating in one of the app’s auctions bid more than 32,000 coins to secure a 65-inch smart TV.
In September, Sweatcoin plans to debut a cryptocurrency called $SWEAT. Users will have the choice of pinning their sweatcoins or converting them to a blockchain-powered cryptocurrency.
“The whole idea is how do we capture the value of physical activity?” Derlyatka says. “Because once we do that and share it back with the user, it becomes a habit.”
Pedro Rente Lourenço is in the field of biomedical engineering and has long been interested in how to improve sports performance. After studying artificial intelligence, he became a co-founder Dotmoovs, a blockchain-powered peer-to-peer sports competition app. An AI algorithm allows the app to evaluate all workouts within minutes.
To get started, users download a free app and familiarize themselves with the program by watching videos of other people completing challenges. “They will see the analyzed videos with our little dots or figurines on people and see their results and get a feel for what to expect,” says Rente Lorenzo. You can then choose whether you want to play freestyle football (soccer for those in the US) or dance and do a solo challenge up to three times a day.
Using more advanced versions of the app requires either purchasing or I am renting out NFT. Once you have one, you can challenge other players (either real-life friends or internet strangers) to soccer or dance competitions that are recorded on your phone. The winner receives a pool of $MOOV tokens, which is a cryptocurrency that can be saved, redeemed, or used to purchase additional NFTs or other rewards. If you have rented out your NFT for free, you will share a portion of your earnings with the person who owns it.
“We didn’t want to create another app just for crypto-savvy people,” says Rente Lorenzo. “The idea here is that everyone likes to dance and everyone will want to play football. And then if you make a foray into crypto, you can earn more tokens and get more rewards and it’s more exciting, but we don’t want to create that barrier to entry.”
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