News Tech: Some of us sigh loudly as we stare at a treadmill before announcing, “You couldn’t pay, I had to go to the gym.” Others, though, can be persuaded to practise with little sums of mysterious cryptocurrencies.
There are dozens of comparable sites, and the tendency appears to be growing: Usain Bolt, an Olympian, has declared his intention to collaborate with the soon-to-be-released Step App, which will let users earn cryptocurrencies and NFTs for engaging in physical activities like running or dog walking.
The users of swipe-to-earn applications, which reward users with bitcoin, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), or points (similar to those you get with a credit card earn in exchange for exercising, are members of the latter group. For every 1,000 steps they perform on the app Sweatcoin, for instance, users receive one Sweatcoin, a cryptocurrency token that can be saved or exchanged for products and services.
The idea provides gains made in the gym a new perspective. According to Redondo Beach, California-based personal trainer Kevin Harris, who has experimented with moving to-earn apps like Sweatcoin, “it’s a fantastic unique approach to push people to move, and it’s always great to be rewarded for exercising.” Many people say they’ll exercise more if they don’t feel they’re giving up something else, like working hours or downtime. Financial rewards.
A study published in 2021 in Earth found that small monetary rewards – such as those collected via swipe-to-earn 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 encouraged exercise. Participants can earn small monetary rewards, such as $1.75 in Amazon points for going to the gym, or 9 cents for returning to the gym after missing a workout. Almost half of these interventions were able to increase weekly gym attendance at rates ranging from 9% to 27%.
“When you’re already motivated to achieve some kind of goal, gamification seems to add extra motivation,” says Milkman, who co-authored the study. “That’s true, even if you’re just earning points, and there’s literally no value. Even symbolic rewards work.” Milkman predicts that we will see more incentives for physical activity in the future, perhaps from health insurers. “Offering small rewards for something that’s so good for you and should reduce costs seems like an obvious win,” she says.
Read more: A VR interview with the director who made “We Met in Virtual Reality”. But there is a catch. Some cryptocurrency-based swipe-to-earn apps require an initial investment: You might have to spend a few hundred dollars for an NFT in the form of a “digital sneaker,” for example. (Ateljevic recalls spending about $900 on STPN.) These purchases are one way swipe-to-earn apps make money; the app creators also typically get a commission fee on all cryptocurrency earned.
Research suggests that putting your own money on the line actually deepens commitment. “We know that losses are greater than gains,” says Milkman. “So I guess it won’t hurt, and 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 dropped, and Ateljevic sold the majority of his crypto and stopped using the app. Now he works out “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 proficiency with cryptocurrency and technology. Those looking to try swipe-to-earn apps will need a smartphone, perhaps a smartwatch, and maybe even a web3 wallet that allows for storing, sending, and receiving cryptocurrencies . Such obstacles all but ensure 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 does not mean that these platforms are not beneficial, but rather that they are not universally attractive or effective.
After logging into the platform, you’ll connect the app to your smartwatch or other wearable fitness tracker, as well as to a web3 wallet. Once its earning mechanism launches in August, users who perform health activities — such as exercising or meditating — will earn cryptocurrency tokens that can be used to buy items such as exercise equipment, or can be exchanged for cash. For example, logging one cardio workout will equal about 40 “heart rate tokens” or $2-$3, while a resistance training workout will yield 20 tokens or $1-$2. Getting a good night’s sleep will bring in another $1-$2. (Lester points out that since cryptocurrency values fluctuate, these numbers may trend up or down.)
To start, users are outfitted with humanoid NFT avatars that cost around $100 to $300 and are called metaGym Buddies. “It’s almost like your gym membership,” says Lester. “Purchasing the NFT gives you access to our platform, which has the earning mechanisms, but also a bunch of other benefits.” MetaGym
After spending more than 20 years in the fitness industry, including working as a personal trainer, Eddie Lester decided to merge his passion for helping people get in shape with his growing interest in cryptocurrency. The result is MetaGym, a futuristic tool launched in 2021 that rewards fitness, sleep and meditation.