Money walks: New research says turning walking into currency could be secret weapon in fight against obesity

What Mobile
January 22, 2019

Study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine this month shows smartphone app Sweatcoin creates a sustained 20 per cent increase in physical activity 

Most Brits have already given up their New Year’s resolutions to be more physically active, showing how difficult sustaining motivation can be. However, a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) this month shows that smartphone app Sweatcoin, which converts users’ steps into currency, could be the key to tackling major societal health issues.

  • Research showed a sustained 20 per cent increase in physical activity from app users, far surpassing the impact of traditional incentive and motivational programmes.
  • The University of Warwick study shows Sweatcoin could help tackle the huge challenge of motivating people to lead more active lives.
  • The study looked at the movement of 6,000 participants using Sweatcoin, a smartphone app that converts physical activity (measured through step count) into currency that can be spent on goods and services – from as little as a cup of coffee, to expensive goods like a new phone or TV.
  • The analysis found that users’ daily step count increased by an average of 19.5 per cent over a 6-month period after downloading the app, compared with their average activity in the 3 months prior. Furthermore, the study found that those typically lacking motivation to exercise (sedentary and high BMI individuals) were most likely to increase their step count with Sweatcoin, showing this instant reward programme could be the key to motivating those most in need of support.

Sweatcoin co-founder Oleg Fomenko commented:

“Incentivising people to walk more is key to improving levels of sustained physical activity. Yet, traditional ideas such as providing educational seminars or discounted gym passes, just don’t deliver.

“The University of Warwick researchers found that an economy built on movement, as created by Sweatcoin, establishes a sustained motivation for people to be more active. For an increasingly sedentary population facing an obesity and wellness crisis, these are significant findings.”

Lord Philip Hunt, former Health Minister and Sweatcoin Advisory Board Member commented:

“Most health apps and initiatives tend to be aimed at those who are already active. Sweatcoin has huge potential in encouraging and incentivising non-active people to get walking. Given the health gains that can be achieved through increased physical activity, this is the kind of breakthrough we need to help motivate those who can benefit most.

“For many people, the self-motivation to lead a healthier, more active lifestyle can prove challenging, with goals feeling intangible and easy to discard. However, the instant reward model of Sweatcoin incentivises people with a bigger impact and in a way that sustains improvements.”

Dr Mark Elliott, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Digital Healthcare at WMG University of Warwick commented: “

We were delighted to have the opportunity to work with Sweatcoin and investigate how their app impacts on physical activity behaviour change. By analysing the anonymized daily step count data from a sample of 6,000 Sweatcoin users and combining this with data from the surveys and focus groups facilitated by our researchers, we were able to identify which types of user had the biggest impact in terms of increased physical activity from using the app – and these are the groups who traditionally struggle the most with self-motivation.”

The Movement Economy 

  • The long-term vision of Sweatcoin is to become a global digital currency backed by the economic value of movement.
  • The study has already encouraged public bodies, such as governments and councils, to collaborate with Sweatcoin on initiatives and rewards designed to encourage communities to move more, subsequently alleviating the financial strain placed upon them by rising obesity levels.
  • According to the NHS, the average Brit walks between 3,000 and 4,000 steps a day.
  • A 20 per cent increase will add between 600 and 800 a day, bringing the annual step count close to 1.8m steps. This is enough to generate almost 2,000 Sweatcoins and burn 13kg of body fat.

Sweatcoin co-founder Anthon Derlyatka commented:

“We are beginning to understand the true cost to governments and communities of an increasingly sedentary population.

“Now imagine a world where movement could pay your taxes – this study suggests we have a tool to reduce the burden on health and community services, saving billions of pounds of taxpayer money.”

“The results of this study reach far beyond individual benefits; the improved movement of those individuals can collectively and measurably relieve pressure on our strained healthcare systems and improve the overall wellbeing of the nation. We have ambitious plans for Sweatcoin, in collaboration with the private and public sector, to truly bring an end to our deadly sedentary lifestyles.”

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