HPB Trackers: How to Nudge Healthy Lifestyles for the Long-term?
Kruck kruck kruck kruck. I’d imagine that is the sound of my dad’s wrist, as he flicks it back and forth, willing the smart band to complete his workout for the day. Kruck kruck. Ooh, it’s 10,000 steps now. That’s 10 Healthpoints in the bag. Time to sync the device and rest for the day!
That was the time when the Health Promotion Board (HPB) provided free fitness trackers to every Singaporean, and when clocking 10k steps a day or hitting 30 MVPA minutes (i.e. moderate to vigorous physical activities) wins you points which you can convert into cash. My dad had already maxed out his rewards in previous series of the National Steps Challenge, and needless to say, his step tracker is out of sync for many, many months now.
Money is a good nudge for behaviour. But is it a good nudge for longer-term lifestyles?
I refused to wear a fitness tracker in the past, because I didn’t want to have to look at my steps all the time and feel bad about it. I didn’t want to clock phantom steps and feel bad about it. I didn’t want to force myself to move when I’m trying to think and get things done. It felt like putting a curse on your own arm.
But last month, I decided to take out my wallet and pay to be cursed. For no rewards or prizes in return. And I discovered that I’m averaging about 4k steps a day. Ooh, that’s less than half of 10k! Well, at least I don’t feel guilty for missing out on free cash. At least I get to confront the truth, not just about my walking habits, but also my heart rates and sleep patterns.
So I wondered: What if we don’t make it about the money? What if we tried to focus on the feelings of people instead? What if we reward people not for hitting a fixed goal, but just for keeping the trackers on and allowing them to see their true data for themselves?
Because if we want to nudge people into healthier lifestyles, it’s not just about 10k steps. It’s not just about 30min of intense heart rates. It’s about getting people to be curious about their habits, to feel in touch with the state of their bodies, and only when they know exactly what they lack can they really commit to any long-term changes to their lifestyles.
Don’t you think?