Getting paid to stay fit? What a concept!

Perhaps the Health Promotion Board did get it right, though — our brains are hardwired to react to tangible fiscal rewards, after all. If free money doesn’t motivate us Singaporeans into getting off our couches and start getting active (in a socially-distanced manner), what will?

I’m talking about LumiHealth, Singapore’s latest effort towards getting citizens in shape though a first-of-its-kind partnership between the government and Apple.

While the programme does entail rewarding you with vouchers (worth up to $380!) for completing personal activity goals and weekly challenges, the barrier to entry might be a turn off to some: an Apple Watch is absolutely mandatory to participate.

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Photo: Apple

The marketing spiel is that LumiHealth was developed with the help of physicians and public health experts, and it was specifically designed to work in a manner that health and wellness monitoring will work seamlessly with Apple Watches and iPhones.

Supposedly, the challenges would have users walk, swim, jog, and do other sweat-inducing stuff to score points. You see, the process is gamified — closing rings and completing tasks fuels your little LumiHealth avatar to reach milestones and obtain coins.

The more coins you have, the more monetary vouchers you earn that can be spent at various retail partners, including 7-Eleven, Cold Storage, NTUC Fairprice, Watsons and Swensen’s.

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Photo: LumiHealth (screengrab)

As an owner of an Apple Watch who has signed up for the programme, I’m here to tell you that yes, LumiHealth works. I’ve been using it since the app went live at the end of October, and so far I’ve gotten $21 in exchange for sweat spilt and aching muscles suffered.

And hand to heart, it’s way easier than one might think to complete the challenges. Some of the tasks you need to fulfil include going to sleep with the watch on, journal negative thoughts or just abstain from supposed distractions like gaming or watching TV. No sweat loss on those tasks.

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Photo: LumiHealth (screengrab)

Seeing as video games, bingeing on The Crown and wallowing in dark thoughts (always good to keep your ego in check) are personal daily necessities, I found that I didn’t really have to follow what LumiHealth tells me to do in order to indicate that I did. All that I needed to do is manually tap on the “I did this” button even though I didn’t, though I guess there isn’t really a way to monitor this realistically.

What truly helped though are the various activity challenges that will really require some exercise and workout to fulfil, i.e. you can’t cheat these ones. Actual commitment (ugh, I know) is needed to complete challenges that read off data from your Apple Watch’s exercise ring.

A bumper crop of points are given if you manage to complete your Activity, Exercise and Stand rings a few times per week, so doing this often equates to faster acquisition of vouchers.

Plus, they’re doable, really, especially if you’re already working out regularly. For those who aren’t, it’s a good way to just get up and move, because closing the rings is as easy as going out for a brisk walk for half an hour or so.

Aside from the usual reminders to work out and be well, LumiHealth will also coax users to go for health screenings and vaccinations. Oh yes, you get in-app points for that too, don’t I haven’t yet tried it out for myself.

Of course, the true reward is a healthier, fitter you. Earning $21 pales in comparison to the 5kg I’ve lost since I started committing to the app, but hey, I’ll take all the free money I can get while at it.

Text: Ilyas Sholihyn/AsiaOne