Want to get moving for 30 minutes a day? There’s a reward for that.

Want to get moving for 30 minutes a day? There’s a reward for that.

Kristie Wang's picture

GOODcoins taps gamification to make daily exercise fun, social, and rewarding.

Staying active can be difficult, even if we know that exercise is one of the best ways to prevent diabetes and heart disease. But now an innovative app called GOODcoins is providing the carrot without the stick by rewarding people for everyday healthy behaviors.

The free app “nudges” and awards points for meeting key basic fitness standards, like walking 30 minutes a day. People can choose to join a variety of campaigns, including the “30/30” walk (30 minutes of walking a day for a month) and the “Cycling Weekend Warrior” (120 minutes of weekend cycling). Each time a target is met, participants automatically get credited with GOODcoins, which they can redeem for people and planet friendly products. (We have our eye on a wristband movement tracker and a gift card for organic food produced by local Canadian farmers.) GOODcoins can also be redeemed as charitable donations.

For the team behind GOODcoins, the solution is about making active living fun, easy, and rewarding. “We know that it doesn’t take much for busy schedules and competing priorities to get in the way [of making healthy choices],” says Jonathan Laski, Director at GOODcoins.

“Even with the best intentions, it is easy to say: ‘It’s too cold out!’ or ‘I’ll start on Saturday.’ For most of us, making the time and the effort is just not appealing enough. GOODcoins is the nudge we need. Start small and get rewarded.”

The program is tapping into a growing trend in social innovation—using games and fun to help people change their behaviours, or what the business and social change sector call “gamification.” Earning points, tracking goals, and sharing progress with friends aligns healthy choices with innate human behaviours—and thus makes healthy living easier to achieve.

“Being rewarded for walking is new, exciting and habit-forming,” Laski says. He’s also quick to point out how the simple act of walking produces tremendous benefits for people and society as a whole.

“Walking is a miracle medicine—it’s cheaper than aspirin and just 30 minutes a day dramatically reduces your chance of getting diabetes or cancer,” Laski says. “If we all were to walk 30 minutes a day it would change the future of Canada. The health care savings could be put towards the environment, better schools, social housing or reducing taxes.”

This past summer, the City of London put the GOODcoins App to the test by launching a series of campaigns that encouraged citizens to bike to work or school. Londoners came out in full force, cycling over 28,000 kms (the equivalent of 6 times across Canada or almost three-quarters of the way around the world) and burning a total of 760,000 calories by the end of the summer.

GOODcoins is creating more partnerships with cities, including East Palo Alto in California, a food desert where only 7% of children meet basic fitness standards. The organization is working with San Mateo county to develop a virtuous cycle, so that when citizens are rewarded for walking, they can also use their GOODcoins to purchase local, organic food in their community. “In this way, a single GOODcoin creates multiple socially good actions by encouraging exercise and growing the local healthy food market,” says Laski.

GOODcoins foresees that more partnerships with cities, health insurers, and businesses could exponentially reduce healthcare costs, while helping communities enjoy better health and a richer quality of life.

“We will show all employers that we can improve employee fitness, while reducing healthcare claims and the incidence of disease through the simple miracle drug called walking,” says Laski.

In the coming year, GOODcoins hopes to further explore such partnerships and continue adding local businesses to its GOODcoins shop. For anyone looking to stay active or recommit to healthy living, GOODcoins shares these helpful tips:

  • Start small and build on success. Let 10 minutes of walking to the corner become 30 minutes after dinner. The single best thing for your health is walking every day.
  • GOODcoins will nudge and reward you. Invite your friends to join in and see how you rank against each other during walking, running or cycling campaigns.
  • Stick with the plan with our prompts, news and tips. Track your progress and reap the rewards from day one. Most of all, have fun!

GOODcoins is a finalist of The Play Exchange! All six finalists were announced in September, and will be featured on a national television program in January 2015. Canadians will have the chance to vote for a grand prize winner, who will receive up to $1 million to put their idea into action. Stay tuned for more information on the television program and voting, coming soon!