Opinion Technology
February 08, 2024

Fitness Tech Companies are Raising Price of Health, But Should Be Paying Their Users

Fitness Tech Companies are Raising Price of Health, But Should Be Paying Their Users

Wealth and wellness have a long, unhealthy relationship history. From people struggling to access nutritious food to the ultra-wealthy spending a fortune to chase immortality via biohacking, the story is the same: if you want to be healthy, you must pay up. With so much fitness technology available, however, spending on health and fitness is skyrocketing leaving many unable to participate. But does it have to be this way? What if instead of demanding money for sports and fitness products and services we started rewarding people for being physically active?

Fitness technology in particular has a corner on the market for creatively convincing people to sweat away their paycheck. The latest example of fitness extravagance comes from the metaverse: Valkyrie EIR uses electrical muscle stimulation—a technology proven to aid strength training— paired with virtual reality (VR) technology to level up at-home workouts. The workout is virtual, Valkyrie says, but the “resistance is real.”

Of course, Valkyrie is just doing what the likes of Peloton did at its zenith: using technology to make exercise more attractive, convenient, or exciting. And that’s not a bad thing. Avoiding exercise is a huge health risk, so offering an active, gamified alternative to the sedentary lifestyle so many people face is crucial. The downside is the price of tech-savvy fitness, which excludes people in an enormous income bracket. Getting a Peleton bike costs about $2,000 USD, and the membership costs run at around $500 USD every year after that. Even a Fitbit or Fitbit alternative costs at least $200-$300 USD without additional membership costs. This is out-of-budget for most people, let alone a VR headset for anywhere from $400-$4,000 USD (EMS technology not included).

These prices might be acceptable if it were the wealthy who needed help getting in shape, but it is often the people in emerging markets who could use a hand in taking control of their health. These countries often get the short end of the stick of development as new products become available. These countries gain access to cheap fast food and the money to buy it without having enough cash to invest in their long-term health simultaneously. This is the case in Mexico: where sugary, fatty food is now more accessible than most produce and even water; sedentary lifestyles are more accessible; and about 75% of Mexico’s adult population is dangerously overweight.

There are about 904 million people facing obesity in emerging markets — this number is nearly double the number facing obesity in countries or areas where wages can support a balanced diet as well as investment in healthy lifestyle programs. In many countries facing increased obesity, there are fewer resources to promote wellness, fitness, or healthy eating campaigns. Countries in the global north have had more success turning attention and wealth to improving fitness, with the United States being a notable exception. Therefore, there is a huge scope in emerging markets to empower those affected by access to unhealthy foods with access to lifestyle-changing tools. This would in turn prevent many individuals from developing chronic conditions later in life. People struggling to spend on fitness or diet improvements would have minimal access to VR technology. 

Research shows that, when the means and the support are available, most people will continue to invest in their health where they can. It’s worth the short-term budget stresses. In all these situations, though, people need Robinhood-like wellness solutions to break the toxic mold of a wealthy health culture.

The statistics that correlate physical activity with the prevention of illness and chronic conditions are indisputable, and using just a simple app on a phone is enough to start monitoring and mitigating health risks. Regular physical activity improves overall health and prevents chronic illness, saving employers, governments, and insurance companies money. Even walking 2,300 steps is enough to combat some long-term health issues, and engaging in high-energy activity for just five minutes a day can lower cancer risk for some people.

There should be a way for people to become wealthier as they get healthier. In the short and long term, a more active population generates personal wealth and economic wellness, so organizations should partner with fitness technology projects and pay people to get active. 

If that argument would make your CEO balk, email this around the office: People going to work sick cost employers in the United States over $150 billion USD every year. Even in a post-pandemic world, people don’t want to let work pile up, leave their colleagues to pick up their slack or use paid time off to take sick days—a problem that Europeans don’t have to confront as often. The cheapest solution is to keep employees healthy, and if more paid time off is a non-starter, this means encouraging fitness. 

Governments and insurance companies—in other words, the organizations that pick up the hospital bills—have already realized that chronic condition prevention via rewarding fitness is the way of the future. For example, in the United Kingdom, the National Health Service (NHS) spends ten percent of its budget treating complications from diabetes, which totals about £10 billion in treatments. There are about five million people in England currently at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, so the NHS is engaging fitness technology to get people at risk of diabetes moving, rewarding their active lifestyles. In the long run, the NHS realizes that this investment in its citizens could save the government billions of pounds yearly. 

Insurance companies take a similar approach. One insurance company in New York sends out monthly Amazon gift cards to active members of their network who walk 10,000 steps daily, which is tracked on an app through a fitness tracker provided by the company. Another health insurance provider tracks its members’ data using industry-of-things (IoT) technology, rewarding active, healthy lifestyles with a points system that can lead to discounts on things like healthy food. It has been proven that straightforward fitness technology can create sustained habits of increased physical activity in users. Genuinely inclusive, innovative fitness technology will flip the traditional industry model, financially rewarding those who move. Further to this, there is a reverse correlation between income levels and excess weight, making rewarding exercise work best in the lower sociodemographics where change will be most beneficial and bring the highest benefits to the world economy.

Wouldn’t it be nice if physical activity in addition to universally recognized “intangible value” would gain an actual monetary value? Stakeholders in the healthcare space are realizing this. Small changes in personal behavior can save billions in healthcare and insurance costs and rewarding these behaviors works. Far beyond cashback towards gym memberships, those who move can be directly and immediately rewarded for doing so, creating a positive feedback loop and building sustainable habits that benefit everyone.

Disclaimer

In line with the Trust Project guidelines, please note that the information provided on this page is not intended to be and should not be interpreted as legal, tax, investment, financial, or any other form of advice. It is important to only invest what you can afford to lose and to seek independent financial advice if you have any doubts. For further information, we suggest referring to the terms and conditions as well as the help and support pages provided by the issuer or advertiser. MetaversePost is committed to accurate, unbiased reporting, but market conditions are subject to change without notice.

About The Author

Co-Founder of Sweat Economy

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Oleg Fomeko
Oleg Fomeko

Co-Founder of Sweat Economy

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