You too can be an exercise champion

When the devices called Fitbits first came out, they were all over the place. One of them was handed to me and I wore one over a few days to see how much I walked on average. It turns out that my daily walk numbers were nowhere close to what was expected (10,000 steps?) and so I had two options: walk more or give up monitoring my number. I chose the latter and now don’t even know where my Fitbit is. My attitude to exercise is close to that of Pig in Pearls Before Swine.

But now you don’t need a standalone device because they are integrated into smartphones as apps. The catch is that now other people can track your level of exercise and some companies are using these devices to try and pressure employees to walk more, by providing incentives for meeting goals. (Although these are presented as incentives, the withholding of a reward can also be viewed as a form of punishment for those who do not meet the goals.)

As with all such attempts to manipulate behavior by means of rewards and punishments, it did not take long for people to find ways to game the system. In China, where people can get discounts n health insurance if they meet certain exercise goals, Rusty Blazehoff describes a restaurant that offers a cradle for your smartphone that swings so that you can rack up your numbers while eating and drinking and generally relaxing. It turns out that these walking simulators have been around in China since 2016, though they don’t seem to have caught on here.


  1. chigau (違う) says

    I know a person who makes a few dollars by walking other people’s dogs.
    I wonder if that would work in this application.

  2. jrkrideau says

    Clearly a business opportunity here.

    I remember reading that some Japanese companies were tracking company cell phones to see if staff were at their desks. Staff parked staff cell phone at desk and used another one.

    @ chigau
    Dogs have no discretion. They would turn in the dog-walkers in a second.

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