Whether you’re training for that 5k, committing to daily yoga classes or shedding pounds to be ready for the beach, a number of apps add extra motivation to help you achieve your goal by paying you to get active.
Jacquette M. Timmons, a financial behaviorist and author in New York City, uses a financially rewarding fitness tracker through her health insurance provider.
“By giving them access to my fitness app, I can get money back at the end of the year based on the steps I’ve taken,” she says.
Timmons says this incentive-based approach is “a good reinforcement for people who already do something naturally and a good motivator for people who do not, who need to change a behavior.”
Here are four apps and tools that will reward you depending on how well you stick to your goals. A fifth app in this original post has settled with the Federal Trade Commission and agreed to refund nearly $1 million after allegations that it defrauded users.
1. Sweatcoin: Using a combination of GPS and step-tracking, Sweatcoin rewards users for walking outdoors (indoor steps do not count). Sweatcoins can later be redeemed for goods such as fitness trackers or donated to charity. Available for iOS.
Quick tip: Under the free Mover plan that I’m using, Sweatcoin will convert and credit me for up to 5,000 outdoor steps per day. Users can pay more to convert up to 20,000 steps a day, but I don’t think it’s worth paying for (many of my steps are indoors due to the Texas heat and spring allergies). I joined in February 2017, but the rewards were getting less and less over time, so I deleted the app to free up space.
2. Achievemint: Achievemint syncs with other apps such as FitBit, MapMyRun and Jawbone, so users can earn points for steps, healthy eating, taking surveys or logging food. Ten thousand points equals $10, and there’s no limit to the number of points you can earn, although points expire one year after they’re earned. Available for iOS and Android.
Quick tip: You need to be a serious mover for this app to pay off! I earn around 200 points most weeks (for instance, on a recent day 9,347 steps earned me 25 points and a health-related tweet earned me 6 points). Since joining at the end of December, I’ve made it just under a third of my way to a $10 reward. Still, barring any syncing issues, you can basically set it and forget it.
3. Perkville: Several gyms and fitness studios use this app to incentivize member attendance. Every time I scan my member tag at my gym (Planet Fitness), I earn 3 points and an extra 25 points if I visit at least eight times per month. Once I collect enough perks, I can redeem them for things such as a free month’s membership or sports drinks.
Quick tip: Make sure your card actually scans each time you time. During one month when I was traveling a lot, I carefully scheduled just enough workouts to get my 25 bonus points. But I realized afterward I never got a confirmation email, and my visit didn’t count. At least I got the health benefits of working out.
4. Walk for a Dog by Wooftrax: Instead of earning money or virtual currency to put in your pocket, users log walks and earn donations for the animal rescue of their choice. The app is supported by advertising and sponsors, and while the idea is to walk an actual dog, you can also log solo walks or walks on a treadmill (assuming you have an iPhone 6 or greater, since it uses the phone’s internal motion sensor). Available for iOS and Android.
Quick tip: Remember to click the Start Walking button so that your walk is successfully logged for your chosen animal rescue. You can also see your impact over time, including the number of miles and walks logged.
To be clear, we’re not talking big bucks here. No fitness app is going to magically pay your mortgage or save every stray dog, but smaller incentives may be more effective at changing behavior. Big cash prizes may motivate people to cheat.
5. Pact: Consumers who used the Pact app made “pacts” to exercise a certain number of times per week or meet dietary goals,. If they did not complete their pacts, users agreed to be automatically charged an amount, ranging from $5 to $50 per missed activity, the Federal Trade Commission settlement says.
According to Fortune, the FTC claimed that Pact penalized tens of thousands of its users, even when they fulfilled their exercise and diet goals, and even continued charging some after they had canceled the service. One consumer said she deleted her account but continued to be billed more than $500 in recurring charges, the FTC settlement says.
In September 2017, Pact agreed to pay out $940,000 to those who were improperly charged or didn’t receive rewards they’d earned.
Obviously, Pact no longer exists. The app worked fine when I wrote this blog post in April 2017.
For me and others, apps that add financial incentives could help spur long-term behavior change, helping people lose weight, stay fit and remain healthy. But also keep an eye out for news about your apps, such as FTC settlements.
And keep on walking or exercising. It’s good for you. If you walk with your dog, it’s helping both of you to stay fit.
See related: 4 favorite travel apps from four travel bloggers, 4 apps that make it easy to help others, Couples sharing finances? There are apps for that