Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Earn (and Pay) as You Walk

A fitness tracker with built-in financial incentives and penalties
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Disclaimer: if this idea hasn't already been posted here I'd be surprised, but I couldn't find it.

Fitness trackers that log physical activity are everywhere these days, from wristbands to smartphone apps. Whether they're used legitimately - for keeping track of calories burned - or for the purposes of vanity - allowing us to boast about our walks and runs on social media - pretty much everyone who has noticed their expanding waistline invests in some sort of tracker to start their journey towards good health.

Naturally, though, most such forays into regular exercise are short lived. Walking and running are difficult, and Big Macs are easy and delicious. Most trackers end up sitting in a drawer after a short while, joining the pile of ten year old cellphones and spent batteries that already live there.

My fitness tracker would incentivise exercise by adding a financial element. On activation that user would register an account on the website of the tracker, enter his credit card details, agree to a dollar value for each mile walked/calorie burned, and set a daily or weekly goal that must be met.

If the user met his mileage/calorie target by the end of the week his account would not be charged. If he exceeded his target he'd receive a credit for the surplus, and if he failed to hit the target he'd be debited for the amount he fell short.

Small print:

1. The user cannot have complete control in choosing his own target, to avoid a situation in which he aimed to walk just 1 mile a week and received credit for what amounts to not much exercise. The user's target would be computed based on weight, height, age, gender or some other fair combination of personal factors. The target must be physically challenging, but achievable.

2. Only walking within a certain speed range (i.e. 3- 4.5mph) would be tracked, to avoid the user gaming the system by driving or cycling the distance and claiming the credit. This could be tricky, but some combination of GPS tracking and pulse rate could be used to ensure (with a reasonable degree of certainty) that the user is actually doing the exercise.

3. To simplify matters, the tracker must be manually activated at the start of each walk, and only walks over a certain distance are counted towards the weekly total (so the user does not receive credit for walking to the bathroom or moving up the line in McDonalds).

4. The dollar value of each mile would be weighted in favour of the tracker rather than the user. For instance, exceeding a target would result in a credit of $1 per mile, but falling short would incur a $5 per mile penalty.

5. The dollar value must be token, in an effort to make it too much effort to attempt to game the system for profit.

6. The tracker must have some mechanism by which to ensure that only one user operates it. A fingerprint scanner would be ideal.

sambwiches, May 29 2014

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       Setting fair targets would be difficult. I think the target would need to fluctuate to be achievable at a average maximum of 85% of the time for each user (so that you don't run a net loss).   

       It's not for me, but there are probably people who respond well to this kind of incentive to exercise.
xaviergisz, May 29 2014
  

       Make it competitive and networked. Every Sunday night it tots up everyone's progress and divides the total undershoot and distributes it to the total overshoot.
pocmloc, May 29 2014
  

       //Big Macs are easy and delicious   

       Even English know that Big Macs taste naff, considering we have a history of 150+ years of food-adulteration, we know what we're talking about...
not_morrison_rm, May 29 2014
  

       Some people prefer to get their cardio by bicycling. Also there's a huge range of "challenging" for people in the same age group. I, for one, have asthma and cannot start any regimen quickly.   

       //English... food...we know what we're talking about//   

       HA
Voice, May 29 2014
  
      
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